Comments on FUTURE SHOCKC. P. Snow: "Remarkable ... No one ought to have the nerve to pontificate on our presentworries without reading it."R. Buckminster Fuller: "Cogent ... brilliant ... I hope vast numbers will read Tofflersbook."Betty Friedan: "Brilliant and true ... Should be read by anyone with the responsibility ofleading or participating in movements for change in America today."Marshall McLuhan: "FUTURE SHOCK ... is where its at."Robert Rimmer, author of The Harrad Experiment: "A magnificent job ... Must reading."John Diebold: "For those who want to understand the social and psychologicalimplications of the technological revolution, this is an incomparable book."WALL STREET JOURNAL: "Explosive ... Brilliantly formulated."LONDON DAILY EXPRESS: "Alvin Toffler has sent something of a shock-wavethrough Western society."LE FIGARO: "The best study of our times that I know ... Of all the books that I have readin the last 20 years, it is by far the one that has taught me the most."THE TIMES OF INDIA: "To the elite ... who often get committed to age-old institutionsor material goals alone, let Tofflers FUTURE SHOCK be a lesson and a warning."MANCHESTER GUARDIAN: "An American book that will ... reshape our thinking evenmore radically than Galbraiths did in the 1950s ... The book is more than a book, and itwill do more than send reviewers raving ... It is a spectacular outcrop of a formidable,organized intellectual effort ... For the first time in history scientists are marrying theinsights of artists, poets, dramatists, and novelists to statistical analysis and operationalresearch. The two cultures have met and are being merged. Alvin Toffler is one of thefirst exhilarating, liberating results."CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: "Packed with ideas, explanations, constructivesuggestions ... Revealing, exciting, encouraging, brilliant."NEWSWEEK: "In the risky business of social and cultural criticism, there appears anoccasional book that manages—through some happy combination of accident andinsight—to shape our perceptions of its times. One thinks of America in the 1950s, forexample, largely in terms of David Riesmans The Lonely Crowd and John KennethGalbraiths The Affluent Society, while Michael Harringtons The Other America helpedfocus the concerns of the early 1960s. And now Alvin Tofflers immensely readable yetdisquieting study may serve the same purpose for our own increasingly volatile world:even before reading the book, one is ready to acknowledge the point of the title—that wesuffer from future shock."
For Sam, Rose, Heidi and Karen,My closest links with time ...
CONTENTSIntroduction 1PART ONE: THE DEATH OF PERMANENCE 7Chapter 1.THE 800th LIFETIME 9 The Unprepared Visitor 10 Break with the Past 12Chapter 2. THE ACCELERATIVE THRUST 19 Time and Change 20 Subterranean Cities 22 The Technological Engine 25 Knowledge as Fuel 30 The Flow of Situations 32Chapter 3. THE PACE OF LIFE 36 People of the Future 37 Durational Expectancy 42 The Concept of Transience 44PART TWO: TRANSIENCE 49Chapter 4. THINGS: THE THROW-AWAY SOCIETY 51 The Paper Wedding Gown 52 The Missing Supermarket 55 The Economics of Impermanence 56 The Portable Playground 58 The Modular "Fun Palace" 59 The Rental Revolution 63 Temporary Needs 67 The Fad Machine 71Chapter 5. PLACES: THE NEW NOMADS 74 The 3,000,000-Mile Club 75 Flamenco in Sweden 77 Migration to the Future 80 Suicides and Hitch-hikers 83 The Mournful Movers 87 The Homing Instinct 89 The Demise of Geography 91Chapter 6. PEOPLE: THE MODULAR MAN 95 The Cost of Involvement 96 The Duration of Human Relationships 99
The Hurry-up Welcome 102 Friendships in the Future 107 Monday-to-Friday Friends 108 Recruits and Defectors 111 Rent-a-Person 114 How to Lose Friends 116 How Many Friends? 119 Training Children for Turnover 121Chapter 7. ORGANIZATION: THE COMING AD-HOCRACY 124 Catholics, Cliques and Coffee Breaks 126 The Organizational Upheaval 128 The New Ad-hocracy 132 The Collapse of Hierarchy 137 Beyond Bureaucracy 142Chapter 8. INFORMATION: THE KINETIC IMAGE 152 Twiggy and the K-Mesons 155 The Freudian Wave 158 A Blizzard of Best Sellers 161 The Engineered Message 162 Mozart on the Run 166 The Semi-literate Shakespeare 169 Art: Cubists and Kineticists 173 The Neural Investment 177PART THREE: NOVELTY 183Chapter 9. THE SCIENTIFIC TRAJECTORY 185 The New Atlantis 188 Sunlight and Personality 191 The Voice of the Dolphin 193 The Biological Factory 194 The Pre-designed Body 197 The Transient Organ 205 The Cyborgs among Us 209 The Denial of Change 215Chapter 10. THE EXPERIENCE MAKERS 219 The Psychic Cake-Mix 221 "Serving Wenches" in the Sky 224 Experiential Industries 226 Simulated Environments 228 Live Environments 230 The Economics of Sanity 234Chapter 11. THE FRACTURED FAMILY 238 The Mystique of Motherhood 239 The Streamlined Family 241 Bio-Parents and Pro-Parents 243
Communes and Homosexual Daddies 245 The Odds Against Love 249 Temporary Marriage 251 Marriage Trajectories 253 The Demands of Freedom 256PART FOUR: DIVERSITY 261Chapter 12. THE ORIGINS OF OVERCHOICE 263 Design-a-Mustang 264 Computers and Classrooms 270 "Drag Queen" Movies 276Chapter 13. A SURFEIT Of SUBCULTS 284 Scientists and Stockbrokers 286 The Fun Specialists 288 The Youth Ghetto 290 Marital Tribes 293 Hippies, Incorporated 294 Tribal Turnover 296 The Ignoble Savage 299Chapter 14. A DIVERSITY OF LIFE STYLES 303 Motorcyclists and Intellectuals 305 Style-Setters and Mini-Heroes 308 Life-Style Factories 309 The Power of Style 312 A Superabundance of Selves 316 The Free Society 321PART FIVE: THE LIMITS OF ADAPTABILITY 323Chapter 15. FUTURE SHOCK: THE PHYSICAL DIMENSION 325 Life Change and Illness 327 Response to Novelty 334 The Adaptive Reaction 337Chapter 16. FUTURE SHOCK: THE PSYCHOLOGICAL DIMENSION 343 The Overstimulated Individual 344 Bombardment of the Senses 348 Information Overload 350 Decision Stress 355 Victims of Future Shock 358 The Future-shocked Society 365PART SIX: STRATEGIES FOR SURVIVAL 369Chapter 17. COPING WITH TOMORROW 371 Direct Coping 374 Personal Stability Zones 377
Situational Grouping 383 Crisis Counseling 385 Half-way Houses 388 Enclaves of the Past 390 Enclaves of the Future 392 Global Space Pageants 393Chapter 18. EDUCATION IN THE FUTURE TENSE 398 The Industrial Era School 399 The New Educational Revolution 402 The Organizational Attack 405 Yesterdays Curriculum Today 409 A Diversity of Data 411 A System of Skills 413 The Strategy of Futureness 418Chapter 19. TAMING TECHNOLOGY 428 Technological Backlash 430 Selecting Cultural Styles 432 Transistors and Sex 437 A Technology Ombudsman 440 The Environmental Screen 443Chapter 20. THE STRATEGY OF SOCIAL FUTURISM 446 The Death of Technocracy 447 The Humanization of the Planner 452 Time Horizons 458 Anticipatory Democracy 470Acknowledgments 488Notes 490Bibliography 522Index 541
INTRODUCTIONThis is a book about what happens to people when they are overwhelmed by change. It isabout the ways in which we adapt—or fail to adapt—to the future. Much has been writtenabout the future. Yet, for the most part, books about the world to come sound a harsh metallicnote. These pages, by contrast, concern themselves with the "soft" or human side oftomorrow. Moreover, they concern themselves with the steps by which we are likely to reachtomorrow. They deal with common, everyday matters—the products we buy and discard, theplaces we leave behind, the corporations we inhabit, the people who pass at an ever faster clipthrough our lives. The future of friendship and family life is probed. Strange new subculturesand life styles are investigated, along with an array of other subjects from politics andplaygrounds to skydiving and sex. What joins all these—in the book as in life—is the roaring current of change, a currentso powerful today that it overturns institutions, shifts our values and shrivels our roots.Change is the process by which the future invades our lives, and it is important to look at itclosely, not merely from the grand perspectives of history, but also from the vantage point ofthe living, breathing individuals who experience it. The acceleration of change in our time is, itself, an elemental force. This accelerativethrust has personal and psychological, as well as sociological, consequences. In the pagesahead, these effects of acceleration are, for the first time, systematically explored. The bookargues forcefully, I hope, that, unless man quickly learns to control the rate of change in hispersonal affairs as well as in society at large, we are doomed to a massive adaptationalbreakdown. In 1965, in an article in Horizon, I coined the term "future shock" to describe theshattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to toomuch change in too short a time. Fascinated by this concept, I spent the next five yearsvisiting scores of universities, research centers, laboratories, and government agencies,reading countless articles and scientific papers and interviewing literally hundreds of expertson different aspects of change, coping behavior, and the future. Nobel prizewinners, hippies,psychiatrists, physicians, businessmen, professional futurists, philosophers, and educatorsgave voice to their concern over change, their anxieties about adaptation, their fears about thefuture. I came away from this experience with two disturbing convictions. First, it became clear that future shock is no longer a distantly potential danger, but areal sickness from which increasingly large numbers already suffer. This psycho-biologicalcondition can be described in medical and psychiatric terms. It is the disease of change. Second, I gradually came to be appalled by how little is actually known aboutadaptivity, either by those who call for and create vast changes in our society, or by thosewho supposedly prepare us to cope with those changes. Earnest intellectuals talk bravelyabout "educating for change" or "preparing people for the future." But we know virtuallynothing about how to do it. In the most rapidly changing environment to which man has everbeen exposed, we remain pitifully ignorant of how the human animal copes. Our psychologists and politicians alike are puzzled by the seemingly irrationalresistance to change exhibited by certain individuals and groups. The corporation head whowants to reorganize a department, the educator who wants to introduce a new teachingmethod, the mayor who wants to achieve peaceful integration of the races in his city—all, atone time or another, face this blind resistance. Yet we know little about its sources. By thesame token, why do some men hunger, even rage for change, doing all in their power tocreate it, while others flee from it? I not only found no ready answers to such questions, but
discovered that we lack even an adequate theory of adaptation, without which it is extremelyunlikely that we will ever find the answers. The purpose of this book, therefore, is to help us come to terms with the future—to helpus cope more effectively with both personal and social change by deepening ourunderstanding of how men respond to it. Toward this end, it puts forward a broad new theoryof adaptation. It also calls attention to an important, though often overlooked, distinction. Almostinvariably, research into the effects of change concentrate on the destinations toward whichchange carries us, rather than the speed of the journey. In this book, I try to show that the rateof change has implications quite apart from, and sometimes more important than, thedirections of change. No attempt to understand adaptivity can succeed until this fact isgrasped. Any attempt to define the "content" of change must include the consequences ofpace itself as part of that content. William Ogburn, with his celebrated theory of cultural lag, pointed out how socialstresses arise out of the uneven rates of change in different sectors of society. The concept offuture shock—and the theory of adaptation that derives from it—strongly suggests that theremust be balance, not merely between rates of change in different sectors, but between thepace of environmental change and the limited pace of human response. For future shockgrows out of the increasing lag between the two. The book is intended to do more than present a theory, however. It is also intended todemonstrate a method. Previously, men studied the past to shed light on the present. I haveturned the time-mirror around, convinced that a coherent image of the future can also showerus with valuable insights into today. We shall find it increasingly difficult to understand ourpersonal and public problems without making use of the future as an intellectual tool. In thepages ahead, I deliberately exploit this tool to show what it can do. Finally, and by no means least important, the book sets out to change the reader in asubtle yet significant sense. For reasons that will become clear in the pages that follow,successful coping with rapid change will require most of us to adopt a new stance toward thefuture, a new sensitive awareness of the role it plays in the present. This book is designed toincrease the future-consciousness of its reader. The degree to which the reader, after finishingthe book, finds himself thinking about, speculating about, or trying to anticipate futureevents, will provide one measure of its effectiveness. With these ends stated, several reservations are in order. One has to do with theperishability of fact. Every seasoned reporter has had the experience of working on a fast-breaking story that changes its shape and meaning even before his words are put down onpaper. Today the whole world is a fast-breaking story. It is inevitable, therefore, in a bookwritten over the course of several years, that some of its facts will have been supersededbetween the time of research and writing and the time of publication. Professors identifiedwith University A move, in the interim, to University B. Politicians identified with Position Xshift, in the meantime, to Position Y. While a conscientious effort has been made during writing to update Future Shock,some of the facts presented are no doubt already obsolete. (This, of course, is true of manybooks, although authors dont like to talk about it.) The obsolescence of data has a specialsignificance here, however, serving as it does to verify the books own thesis about therapidity of change. Writers have a harder and harder time keeping up with reality. We havenot yet learned to conceive, research, write and publish in "real time." Readers, therefore,must concern themselves more and more with general theme, rather than detail. Another reservation has to do with the verb "will." No serious futurist deals in"predictions." These are left for television oracles and newspaper astrologers. No one evenfaintly familiar with the complexities of forecasting lays claim to absolute knowledge of
tomorrow. In those deliciously ironic words purported to be a Chinese proverb: "To prophesyis extremely difficult—especially with respect to the future." This means that every statement about the future ought, by rights, be accompanied by astring of qualifiers—ifs, ands, buts, and on the other hands. Yet to enter every appropriatequalification in a book of this kind would be to bury the reader under an avalanche ofmaybes. Rather than do this, I have taken the liberty of speaking firmly, without hesitation,trusting that the intelligent reader will understand the stylistic problem. The word "will"should always be read as though it were preceded by "probably" or "in my opinion."Similarly, all dates applied to future events need to be taken with a grain of judgment. The inability to speak with precision and certainty about the future, however, is noexcuse for silence. Where "hard data" are available, of course, they ought to be taken intoaccount. But where they are lacking, the responsible writer—even the scientist—has both aright and an obligation to rely on other kinds of evidence, including impressionistic oranecdotal data and the opinions of well-informed people. I have done so throughout and offerno apology for it. In dealing with the future, at least for the purpose at hand, it is more important to beimaginative and insightful than to be one hundred percent "right." Theories do not have to be"right" to be enormously useful. Even error has its uses. The maps of the world drawn by themedieval cartographers were so hopelessly inaccurate, so filled with factual error, that theyelicit condescending smiles today when almost the entire surface of the earth has beencharted. Yet the great explorers could never have discovered the New World without them.Nor could the better, more accurate maps of today been drawn until men, working with thelimited evidence available to them, set down on paper their bold conceptions of worlds theyhad never seen. We who explore the future are like those ancient mapmakers, and it is in this spirit thatthe concept of future shock and the theory of the adaptive range are presented here—not asfinal word, but as a first approximation of the new realities, filled with danger and promise,created by the accelerative thrust.
Chapter 1 THE 800TH LIFETIMEIn the three short decades between now and the twenty-first century, millions of ordinary,psychologically normal people will face an abrupt collision with the future. Citizens of theworlds richest and most technologically advanced nations, many of them will find itincreasingly painful to keep up with the incessant demand for change that characterizes ourtime. For them, the future will have arrived too soon. This book is about change and how we adapt to it. It is about those who seem to thriveon change, who crest its waves joyfully, as well as those multitudes of others who resist it orseek flight from it. It is about our capacity to adapt. It is about the future and the shock thatits arrival brings. Western society for the past 300 years has been caught up in a fire storm of change.This storm, far from abating, now appears to be gathering force. Change sweeps through thehighly industrialized countries with waves of ever accelerating speed and unprecedentedimpact. It spawns in its wake all sorts of curious social flora—from psychedelic churches and"free universities" to science cities in the Arctic and wife-swap clubs in California. It breeds odd personalities, too: children who at twelve are no longer childlike; adultswho at fifty are children of twelve. There are rich men who playact poverty, computerprogrammers who turn on with LSD. There are anarchists who, beneath their dirty denimshirts, are outrageous conformists, and conformists who, beneath their button-down collars,are outrageous anarchists. There are married priests and atheist ministers and Jewish ZenBuddhists. We have pop ... and op ... and art cinétique ... There are Playboy Clubs andhomosexual movie theaters ... amphetamines and tranquilizers ... anger, affluence, andoblivion. Much oblivion. Is there some way to explain so strange a scene without recourse to the jargon ofpsychoanalysis or the murky clichés of existentialism? A strange new society is apparentlyerupting in our midst. Is there a way to understand it, to shape its development? How can wecome to terms with it? Much that now strikes us as incomprehensible would be far less so if we took a freshlook at the racing rate of change that makes reality seem, sometimes, like a kaleidoscope runwild. For the acceleration of change does not merely buffet industries or nations. It is aconcrete force that reaches deep into our personal lives, compels us to act out new roles, andconfronts us with the danger of a new and powerfully upsetting psychological disease. Thisnew disease can be called "future shock," and a knowledge of its sources and symptoms helpsexplain many things that otherwise defy rational analysis. THE UNPREPARED VISITORThe parallel term "culture shock" has already begun to creep into the popular vocabulary.Culture shock is the effect that immersion in a strange culture has on the unprepared visitor.Peace Corps volunteers suffer from it in Borneo or Brazil. Marco Polo probably sufferedfrom it in Cathay. Culture shock is what happens when a traveler suddenly finds himself in a
place where yes may mean no, where a "fixed price" is negotiable, where to be kept waitingin an outer office is no cause for insult, where laughter may signify anger. It is what happenswhen the familiar psychological cues that help an individual to function in society aresuddenly withdrawn and replaced by new ones that are strange or incomprehensible. The culture shock phenomenon accounts for much of the bewilderment, frustration, anddisorientation that plagues Americans in their dealings with other societies. It causes abreakdown in communication, a misreading of reality, an inability to cope. Yet culture shockis relatively mild in comparison with the much more serious malady, future shock. Futureshock is the dizzying disorientation brought on by the premature arrival of the future. It maywell be the most important disease of tomorrow. Future shock will not be found in Index Medicus or in any listing of psychologicalabnormalities. Yet, unless intelligent steps are taken to combat it, millions of human beingswill find themselves increasingly disoriented, progressively incompetent to deal rationallywith their environments. The malaise, mass neurosis, irrationality, and free-floating violencealready apparent in contemporary life are merely a foretaste of what may lie ahead unless wecome to understand and treat this disease. Future shock is a time phenomenon, a product of the greatly accelerated rate of changein society. It arises from the superimposition of a new culture on an old one. It is cultureshock in ones own society. But its impact is far worse. For most Peace Corps men, in factmost travelers, have the comforting knowledge that the culture they left behind will be thereto return to. The victim of future shock does not. Take an individual out of his own culture and set him down suddenly in anenvironment sharply different from his own, with a different set of cues to react to—differentconceptions of time, space, work, love, religion, sex, and everything else—then cut him offfrom any hope of retreat to a more familiar social landscape, and the dislocation he suffers isdoubly severe. Moreover, if this new culture is itself in constant turmoil, and if—worse yet—its values are incessantly changing, the sense of disorientation will be still further intensified.Given few clues as to what kind of behavior is rational under the radically newcircumstances, the victim may well become a hazard to himself and others. Now imagine not merely an individual but an entire society, an entire generation—including its weakest, least intelligent, and most irrational members—suddenly transportedinto this new world. The result is mass disorientation, future shock on a grand scale. This is the prospect that man now faces. Change is avalanching upon our heads andmost people are grotesquely unprepared to cope with it. BREAK WITH THE PASTIs all this exaggerated? I think not. It has become a cliché to say that what we are now livingthrough is a "second industrial revolution." This phrase is supposed to impress us with thespeed and profundity of the change around us. But in addition to being platitudinous, it ismisleading. For what is occurring now is, in all likelihood, bigger, deeper, and moreimportant than the industrial revolution. Indeed, a growing body of reputable opinion assertsthat the present movement represents nothing less than the second great divide in humanhistory, comparable in magnitude only with that first great break in historic continuity, theshift from barbarism to civilization. This idea crops up with increasing frequency in the writings of scientists andtechnologists. Sir George Thomson, the British physicist and Nobel prizewinner, suggests inThe Foreseeable Future that the nearest historic parallel with today is not the industrialrevolution but rather the "invention of agriculture in the neolithic age." John Diebold, the
American automation expert, warns that "the effects of the technological revolution we arenow living through will be deeper than any social change we have experienced before." SirLeon Bagrit, the British computer manufacturer, insists that automation by itself represents"the greatest change in the whole history of mankind." Nor are the men of science and technology alone in these views. Sir Herbert Read, thephilosopher of art, tells us that we are living through "a revolution so fundamental that wemust search many past centuries for a parallel. Possibly the only comparable change is theone that took place between the Old and the New Stone Age ..." And Kurt W. Marek, whounder the name C. W. Ceram is best-known as the author of Gods, Graves and Scholars,observes that "we, in the twentieth century, are concluding an era of mankind five thousandyears in length ... We are not, as Spengler supposed, in the situation of Rome at the beginningof the Christian West, but in that of the year 3000 B.C. We open our eyes like prehistoricman, we see a world totally new." One of the most striking statements of this theme has come from Kenneth Boulding, aneminent economist and imaginative social thinker. In justifying his view that the presentmoment represents a crucial turning point in human history, Boulding observes that "as far asmany statistical series related to activities of mankind are concerned, the date that divideshuman history into two equal parts is well within living memory." In effect, our centuryrepresents The Great Median Strip running down the center of human history. Thus heasserts, "The world of today ... is as different from the world in which I was born as thatworld was from Julius Caesars. I was born in the middle of human history, to date, roughly.Almost as much has happened since I was born as happened before." This startling statement can be illustrated in a number of ways. It has been observed,for example, that if the last 50,000 years of mans existence were divided into lifetimes ofapproximately sixty-two years each, there have been about 800 such lifetimes. Of these 800,fully 650 were spent in caves. Only during the last seventy lifetimes has it been possible to communicate effectivelyfrom one lifetime to another—as writing made it possible to do. Only during the last sixlifetimes did masses of men ever see a printed word. Only during the last four has it beenpossible to measure time with any precision. Only in the last two has anyone anywhere usedan electric motor. And the overwhelming majority of all the material goods we use in dailylife today have been developed within the present, the 800th, lifetime. This 800th lifetime marks a sharp break with all past human experience because duringthis lifetime mans relationship to resources has reversed itself. This is most evident in thefield of economic development. Within a single lifetime, agriculture, the original basis ofcivilization, has lost its dominance in nation after nation. Today in a dozen major countriesagriculture employs fewer than 15 percent of the economically active population. In theUnited States, whose farms feed 200,000,000 Americans plus the equivalent of another160,000,000 people around the world, this figure is already below 6 percent and it is stillshrinking rapidly. Moreover, if agriculture is the first stage of economic development and industrialismthe second, we can now see that still another stage—the third—has suddenly been reached. Inabout 1956 the United States became the first major power in which more than 50 percent ofthe non-farm labor force ceased to wear the blue collar of factory or manual labor. Blue collarworkers were outnumbered by those in the socalled white-collar occupations—in retail trade,administration, communications, research, education, and other service categories. Within thesame lifetime a society for the first time in human history not only threw off the yoke ofagriculture, but managed within a few brief decades to throw off the yoke of manual labor aswell. The worlds first service economy had been born.
Since then, one after another of the technologically advanced countries have moved inthe same direction. Today, in those nations in which agriculture is down to the 15 percentlevel or below, white collars already outnumber blue in Sweden, Britain, Belgium, Canada,and the Netherlands. Ten thousand years for agriculture. A century or two for industrialism.And now, opening before us—super-industrialism. Jean Fourastié, the French planner and social philosopher, has declared that "Nothingwill be less industrial than the civilization born of the industrial revolution." The significanceof this staggering fact has yet to be digested. Perhaps U Thant, Secretary General of theUnited Nations, came closest to summarizing the meaning of the shift to super-industrialismwhen he declared that "The central stupendous truth about developed economies today is thatthey can have—in anything but the shortest run—the kind and scale of resources they decideto have.... It is no longer resources that limit decisions. It is the decision that makes theresources. This is the fundamental revolutionary change—perhaps the most revolutionaryman has ever known." This monumental reversal has taken place in the 800th lifetime. This lifetime is also different from all others because of the astonishing expansion ofthe scale and scope of change. Clearly, there have been other lifetimes in which epochalupheavals occurred. Wars, plagues, earthquakes, and famine rocked many an earlier socialorder. But these shocks and upheavals were contained within the borders of one or a group ofadjacent societies. It took generations, even centuries, for their impact to spread beyond theseborders. In our lifetime the boundaries have burst. Today the network of social ties is so tightlywoven that the consequences of contemporary events radiate instantaneously around theworld. A war in Vietnam alters basic political alignments in Peking, Moscow, andWashington, touches off protests in Stockholm, affects financial transactions in Zurich,triggers secret diplomatic moves in Algiers. Indeed, not only do contemporary events radiate instantaneously—now we can be saidto be feeling the impact of all past events in a new way. For the past is doubling back on us.We are caught in what might be called a "time skip." An event that affected only a handful of people at the time of its occurrence in the pastcan have large-scale consequences today. The Peloponnesian War, for example, was littlemore than a skirmish by modern standards. While Athens, Sparta and several nearby city-states battled, the population of the rest of the globe remained largely unaware of andundisturbed by the war. The Zapotec Indians living in Mexico at the time were whollyuntouched by it. The ancient Japanese felt none of its impact. Yet the Peloponnesian War deeply altered the future course of Greek history. Bychanging the movement of men, the geographical distribution of genes, values, and ideas, itaffected later events in Rome, and, through Rome, all Europe. Todays Europeans are to somesmall degree different people because that conflict occurred. In turn, in the tightly wired world of today, these Europeans influence Mexicans andJapanese alike. Whatever trace of impact the Peloponnesian War left on the genetic structure,the ideas, and the values of todays Europeans is now exported by them to all parts of theworld. Thus todays Mexicans and Japanese feel the distant, twice-removed impact of thatwar even though their ancestors, alive during its occurrence, did not. In this way, the eventsof the past, skipping as it were over generations and centuries, rise up to haunt and change ustoday. When we think not merely of the Peloponnesian War but of the building of the GreatWall of China, the Black Plague, the battle of the Bantu against the Hamites—indeed, of allthe events of the past—the cumulative implications of the time-skip principle take on weight.Whatever happened to some men in the past affects virtually all men today. This was notalways true. In short, all history is catching up with us, and this very difference,
paradoxically, underscores our break with the past. Thus the scope of change isfundamentally altered. Across space and through time, change has a power and reach in this,the 800th lifetime, that it never did before. But the final, qualitative difference between this and all previous lifetimes is the onemost easily overlooked. For we have not merely extended the scope and scale of change, wehave radically altered its pace. We have in our time released a totally new social force—astream of change so accelerated that it influences our sense of time, revolutionizes the tempoof daily life, and affects the very way we "feel" the world around us. We no longer "feel" lifeas men did in the past. And this is the ultimate difference, the distinction that separates thetruly contemporary man from all others. For this acceleration lies behind theimpermanence—the transience—that penetrates and tinctures our consciousness, radicallyaffecting the way we relate to other people, to things, to the entire universe of ideas, art andvalues. To understand what is happening to us as we move into the age of super-industrialism,we must analyze the processes of acceleration and confront the concept of transience. Ifacceleration is a new social force, transience is its psychological counterpart, and without anunderstanding of the role it plays in contemporary human behavior, all our theories ofpersonality, all our psychology, must remain pre-modern. Psychology without the concept oftransience cannot take account of precisely those phenomena that are peculiarlycontemporary. By changing our relationship to the resources that surround us, by violently expandingthe scope of change, and, most crucially, by accelerating its pace, we have brokenirretrievably with the past. We have cut ourselves off from the old ways of thinking, offeeling, of adapting. We have set the stage for a completely new society and we are nowracing toward it. This is the crux of the 800th lifetime. And it is this that calls into questionmans capacity for adaptation—how will he fare in this new society? Can he adapt to itsimperatives? And if not, can he alter these imperatives? Before even attempting to answer such questions, we must focus on the twin forces ofacceleration and transience. We must learn how they alter the texture of existence,hammering our lives and psyches into new and unfamiliar shapes. We must understandhow—and why—they confront us, for the first time, with the explosive potential of futureshock.
Chapter 2 THE ACCELERATIVE THRUSTEarly in March, 1967, in eastern Canada, an eleven-year-old child died of old age. Ricky Gallant was only eleven years old chronologically, but he suffered from an odddisease called progeria—advanced aging—and he exhibited many of the characteristics of aninety-year-old person. The symptoms of progeria are senility, hardened arteries, baldness,slack, and wrinkled skin. In effect, Ricky was an old man when he died, a long lifetime ofbiological change having been packed into his eleven short years. Cases of progeria are extremely rare. Yet in a metaphorical sense the high technologysocieties all suffer from this peculiar ailment. They are not growing old or senile. But theyare experiencing super-normal rates of change. Many of us have a vague "feeling" that things are moving faster. Doctors andexecutives alike complain that they cannot keep up with the latest developments in theirfields. Hardly a meeting or conference takes place today without some ritualistic oratoryabout "the challenge of change." Among many there is an uneasy mood—a suspicion thatchange is out of control. Not everyone, however, shares this anxiety. Millions sleepwalk their way through theirlives as if nothing had changed since the 1930s, and as if nothing ever will. Living in what iscertainly one of the most exciting periods in human history, they attempt to withdraw from it,to block it out, as if it were possible to make it go away by ignoring it. They seek a "separatepeace," a diplomatic immunity from change. One sees them everywhere: Old people, resigned to living out their years, attempting toavoid, at any cost, the intrusions of the new. Already-old people of thirty-five and forty-five,nervous about student riots, sex, LSD, or miniskirts, feverishly attempting to persuadethemselves that, after all, youth was always rebellious, and that what is happening today is nodifferent from the past. Even among the young we find an incomprehension of change:students so ignorant of the past that they see nothing unusal about the present. The disturbing fact is that the vast majority of people, including educated and otherwisesophisticated people, find the idea of change so threatening that they attempt to deny itsexistence. Even many people who understand intellectually that change is accelerating, havenot internalized that knowledge, do not take this critical social fact into account in planningtheir own personal lives. TIME AND CHANGEHow do we know that change is accelerating? There is, after all, no absolute way to measurechange. In the awesome complexity of the universe, even within any given society, a virtuallyinfinite number of streams of change occur simultaneously. All "things"—from the tiniestvirus to the greatest galaxy—are, in reality, not things at all, but processes. There is no staticpoint, no nirvana-like un-change, against which to measure change. Change is, therefore,necessarily relative. It is also uneven. If all processes occurred at the same speed, or even if they acceleratedor decelerated in unison, it would be impossible to observe change. The future, however,invades the present at differing speeds. Thus it becomes possible to compare the speed of
different processes as they unfold. We know, for example, that compared with the biologicalevolution of the species, cultural and social evolution is extremely rapid. We know that somesocieties transform themselves technologically or economically more rapidly than others. Wealso know that different sectors within the same society exhibit different rates of change—thedisparity that William Ogburn labeled "cultural lag." It is precisely the unevenness of changethat makes it measurable. We need, however, a yardstick that makes it possible to compare highly diverseprocesses, and this yardstick is time. Without time, change has no meaning. And withoutchange, time would stop. Time can be conceived as the intervals during which events occur.Just as money permits us to place a value on both apples and oranges, time permits us tocompare unlike processes. When we say that it takes three years to build a dam, we are reallysaying it takes three times as long as it takes the earth to circle the sun or 31,000,000 times aslong as it takes to sharpen a pencil. Time is the currency of exchange that makes it possible tocompare the rates at which very different processes play themselves out. Given the unevenness of change and armed with this yardstick, we still face exhaustingdifficulties in measuring change. When we speak of the rate of change, we refer to thenumber of events crowded into an arbitrarily fixed interval of time. Thus we need to definethe "events." We need to select our intervals with precision. We need to be careful about theconclusions we draw from the differences we observe. Moreover, in the measurement ofchange, we are today far more advanced with respect to physical processes than socialprocesses. We know far better, for example, how to measure the rate at which blood flowsthrough the body than the rate at which a rumor flows through society. Even with all these qualifications, however, there is widespread agreement, reachingfrom historians and archaeologists all across the spectrum to scientists, sociologists,economists and psychologists, that, many social processes are speeding up—strikingly, evenspectacularly. SUBTERRANEAN CITIESPainting with the broadest of brush strokes, biologist Julian Huxley informs us that "Thetempo of human evolution during recorded history is at least 100,000 times as rapid as that ofpre-human evolution." Inventions or improvements of a magnitude that took perhaps 50,000years to accomplish during the early Paleolithic era were, he says, "run through in a meremillennium toward its close; and with the advent of settled civilization, the unit of changesoon became reduced to the century." The rate of change, accelerating throughout the past5000 years, has become, in his words, "particularly noticeable during the past 300 years." C. P. Snow, the novelist and scientist, also comments on the new visibility of change."Until this century ..." he writes, social change was "so slow, that it would pass unnoticed inone persons lifetime. That is no longer so. The rate of change has increased so much that ourimagination cant keep up." Indeed, says social psychologist Warren Bennis, the throttle hasbeen pushed so far forward in recent years that "No exaggeration, no hyperbole, no outragecan realistically describe the extent and pace of change.... In fact, only the exaggerationsappear to be true." What changes justify such super-charged language? Let us look at a few—change in theprocess by which man forms cities, for example. We are now undergoing the most extensiveand rapid urbanization the world has ever seen. In 1850 only four cities on the face of theearth had a population of 1,000,000 or more. By 1900 the number had increased to nineteen.But by 1960, there were 141, and today world urban population is rocketing upward at a rateof 6.5 percent per year, according to Edgar de Vries and J. P. Thysse of the Institute of Social
Science in The Hague. This single stark statistic means a doubling of the earths urbanpopulation within eleven years. One way to grasp the meaning of change on so phenomenal a scale is to imagine whatwould happen if all existing cities, instead of expanding, retained their present size. If thiswere so, in order to accommodate the new urban millions we would have to build a duplicatecity for each of the hundreds that already dot the globe. A new Tokyo, a new Hamburg, anew Rome and Rangoon—and all within eleven years. (This explains why French urbanplanners are sketching subterranean cities—stores, museums, warehouses and factories to bebuilt under the earth, and why a Japanese architect has blueprinted a city to be built on stiltsout over the ocean.) The same accelerative tendency is instantly apparent in mans consumption of energy.Dr. Homi Bhabha, the late Indian atomic scientist who chaired the first InternationalConference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, once analyzed this trend. "To illustrate,"he said, "let us use the letter Q to stand for the energy derived from burning some 33,000million tons of coal. In the eighteen and one half centuries after Christ, the total energyconsumed averaged less than one half Q per century. But by 1850, the rate had risen to one Qper century. Today, the rate is about ten Q per century." This means, roughly speaking, thathalf of all the energy consumed by man in the past 2,000 years has been consumed in the lastone hundred. Also dramatically evident is the acceleration of economic growth in the nations nowracing toward super-industrialism. Despite the fact that they start from a large industrial base,the annual percentage increases in production in these countries are formidable. And the rateof increase is itself increasing. In France, for example, in the twenty-nine years between 1910 and the outbreak of thesecond world war, industrial production rose only 5 percent. Yet between 1948 and 1965, inonly seventeen years, it increased by roughly 220 percent. Today growth rates of from 5 to 10percent per year are not uncommon among the most industrialized nations. There are ups anddowns, of course. But the direction of change has been unmistakable. Thus for the twenty-one countries belonging to the Organization for EconomicCooperation and Development—by and large, the "have" nations—the average annual rate ofincrease in gross national product in the years 1960-1968 ran between 4.5 and 5.0 percent.The United States grew at a rate of 4.5 percent, and Japan led the rest with annual increasesaveraging 9.8 percent. What such numbers imply is nothing less revolutionary than a doubling of the totaloutput of goods and services in the advanced societies about every fifteen years—and thedoubling times are shrinking. This means, generally speaking, that the child reaching teen agein any of these societies is literally surrounded by twice as much of everything newly man-made as his parents were at the time he was an infant. It means that by the time todays teen-ager reaches age thirty, perhaps earlier, a second doubling will have occurred. Within aseventy-year lifetime, perhaps five such doublings will take place—meaning, since theincreases are compounded, that by the time the individual reaches old age the society aroundhim will be producing thirty-two times as much as when he was born. Such changes in the ratio between old and new have, as we shall show, an electricimpact on the habits, beliefs, and self-image of millions. Never in previous history has thisratio been transformed so radically in so brief a flick of time. THE TECHNOLOGICAL ENGINE
Behind such prodigious economic facts lies that great, growling engine of change—technology. This is not to say that technology is the only source of change in society. Socialupheavals can be touched off by a change in the chemical composition of the atmosphere, byalterations in climate, by changes in fertility, and many other factors. Yet technology isindisputably a major force behind the accelerative thrust. To most people, the term technology conjures up images of smoky steel mills orclanking machines. Perhaps the classic symbol of technology is still the assembly line createdby Henry Ford half a century ago and made into a potent social icon by Charlie Chaplin inModern Times. This symbol, however, has always been inadequate, indeed, misleading, fortechnology has always been more than factories and machines. The invention of the horsecollar in the middle ages led to major changes in agricultural methods and was as much atechnological advance as the invention of the Bessemer furnace centuries later. Moreover,technology includes techniques, as well as the machines that may or may not be necessary toapply them. It includes ways to make chemical reactions occur, ways to breed fish, plantforests, light theaters, count votes or teach history. The old symbols of technology are even more misleading today, when the mostadvanced technological processes are carried out far from assembly lines or open hearths.Indeed, in electronics, in space technology, in most of the new industries, relative silence andclean surroundings are characteristic—even sometimes essential. And the assembly line—theorganization of armies of men to carry out simple repetitive functions—is an anachronism. Itis time for our symbols of technology to change—to catch up with the quickening changes intechnology, itself. This acceleration is frequently dramatized by a thumbnail account of the progress intransportation. It has been pointed out, for example, that in 6000 B.C. the fastesttransportation available to man over long distances was the camel caravan, averaging eightmiles per hour. It was not until about 1600 B.C. when the chariot was invented that themaximum speed was raised to roughly twenty miles per hour. So impressive was this invention, so difficult was it to exceed this speed limit, thatnearly 3,500 years later, when the first mail coach began operating in England in 1784, itaveraged a mere ten mph. The first steam locomotive, introduced in 1825, could muster a topspeed of only thirteen mph, and the great sailing ships of the time labored along at less thanhalf that speed. It was probably not until the 1880s that man, with the help of a moreadvanced steam locomotive, managed to reach a speed of one hundred mph. It took thehuman race millions of years to attain that record. It took only fifty-eight years, however, to quadruple the limit, so that by 1938 airborneman was cracking the 400-mph line. It took a mere twenty-year flick of time to double thelimit again. And by the 1960s rocket planes approached speeds of 4000 mph, and men inspace capsules were circling the earth at 18,000 mph. Plotted on a graph, the line representingprogress in the past generation would leap vertically off the page. Whether we examine distances traveled, altitudes reached, minerals mined, or explosivepower harnessed, the same accelerative trend is obvious. The pattern, here and in a thousandother statistical series, is absolutely clear and unmistakable. Millennia or centuries go by, andthen, in our own times, a sudden bursting of the limits, a fantastic spurt forward. The reason for this is that technology feeds on itself. Technology makes moretechnology possible, as we can see if we look for a moment at the process of innovation.Technological innovation consists of three stages, linked together into a self-reinforcingcycle. First, there is the creative, feasible idea. Second, its practical application. Third, itsdiffusion through society.
The process is completed, the loop closed, when the diffusion of technology embodyingthe new idea, in turn, helps generate new creative ideas. Today there is evidence that the timebetween each of the steps in this cycle has been shortened. Thus it is not merely true, as frequently noted, that 90 percent of all the scientists whoever lived are now alive, and that new scientific discoveries are being made every day. Thesenew ideas are put to work much more quickly than ever before. The time between originalconcept and practical use has been radically reduced. This is a striking difference betweenourselves and our ancestors. Appollonius of Perga discovered conic sections, but it was 2000years before they were applied to engineering problems. It was literally centuries between thetime Paracelsus discovered that ether could be used as an anaesthetic and the time it began tobe used for that purpose. Even in more recent times the same pattern of delay was present. In 1836 a machinewas invented that mowed, threshed, tied straw into sheaves and poured grain into sacks. Thismachine was itself based on technology at least twenty years old at the time. Yet it was notuntil a century later, in the 1930s, that such a combine was actually marketed. The firstEnglish patent for a typewriter was issued in 1714. But a century and a half elapsed beforetypewriters became commercially available. A full century passed between the time NicholasAppert discovered how to can food and the time canning became important in the foodindustry. Today such delays between idea and application are almost unthinkable. It is not thatwe are more eager or less lazy than our ancestors, but we have, with the passage of time,invented all sorts of social devices to hasten the process. Thus we find that the time betweenthe first and second stages of the innovative cycle—between idea and application—has beencut radically. Frank Lynn, for example, in studying twenty major innovations, such as frozenfood, antibiotics, integrated circuits and synthetic leather, found that since the beginning ofthis century more than sixty percent has been slashed from the average time needed for amajor scientific discovery to be translated into a useful technological form. Today a vast andgrowing research and development industry is consciously working to reduce the lag stillfurther. But if it takes less time to bring a new idea to the marketplace, it also takes less time forit to sweep through the society. Thus the interval between the second and third stages of thecycle—between application and diffusion—has likewise been sliced, and the pace ofdiffusion is rising with astonishing speed. This is borne out by the history of several familiarhousehold appliances. Robert B. Young at the Stanford Research Institute has studied thespan of time between the first commercial appearance of a new electrical appliance and thetime the industry manufacturing it reaches peak production of the item. Young found that for a group of appliances introduced in the United States before1920—including the vacuum cleaner, the electric range, and the refrigerator—the averagespan between introduction and peak production was thirty-four years. But for a group thatappeared in the 1939-1959 period—including the electric frying pan, television, and washer-dryer combination—the span was only eight years. The lag had shrunk by more than 76percent. "The post-war group," Young declared, "demonstrated vividly the rapidlyaccelerating nature of the modern cycle." The stepped-up pace of invention, exploitation, and diffusion, in turn, accelerates thewhole cycle still further. For new machines or techniques are not merely a product, but asource, of fresh creative ideas. Each new machine or technique, in a sense, changes all existing machines andtechniques, by permitting us to put them together into new combinations. The number ofpossible combinations rises exponentially as the number of new machines or techniques rises
arithmetically. Indeed, each new combination may, itself, be regarded as a new super-machine. The computer, for example, made possible a sophisticated space effort. Linked withsensing devices, communications equipment, and power sources, the computer became partof a configuration that in aggregate forms a single new super-machine—a machine forreaching into and probing outer space. But for machines or techniques to be combined in newways, they have to be altered, adapted, refined or otherwise changed. So that the very effortto integrate machines into super-machines compels us to make still further technologicalinnovations. It is vital to understand, moreover, that technological innovation does not merelycombine and recombine machines and techniques. Important new machines do more thansuggest or compel changes in other machines—they suggest novel solutions to social,philosophical, even personal problems. They alter mans total intellectual environment—theway he thinks and looks at the world. We all learn from our environment, scanning it constantly—though perhapsunconsciously—for models to emulate. These models are not only other people. They are,increasingly, machines. By their presence, we are subtly conditioned to think along certainlines. It has been observed, for example, that the clock came along before the Newtonianimage of the world as a great clock-like mechanism, a philosophical notion that has had theutmost impact on mans intellectual development. Implied in this image of the cosmos as agreat clock were ideas about cause and effect and about the importance of external, as againstinternal, stimuli, that shape the everyday behavior of all of us today. The clock also affectedour conception of time so that the idea that a day is divided into twenty-four equal segmentsof sixty minutes each has become almost literally a part of us. Recently, the computer has touched off a storm of fresh ideas about man as aninteracting part of larger systems, about his physiology, the way he learns, the way heremembers, the way he makes decisions. Virtually every intellectual discipline from politicalscience to family psychology has been hit by a wave of imaginative hypotheses triggered bythe invention and diffusion of the computer—and its full impact has not yet struck. And sothe innovative cycle, feeding on itself, speeds up. If technology, however, is to be regarded as a great engine, a mighty accelerator, thenknowledge must be regarded as its fuel. And we thus come to the crux of the accelerativeprocess in society, for the engine is being fed a richer and richer fuel every day. KNOWLEDGE AS FUELThe rate at which man has been storing up useful knowledge about himself and the universehas been spiraling upward for 10,000 years. The rate took a sharp upward leap with theinvention of writing, but even so it remained painfully slow over centuries of time. The nextgreat leap forward in knowledge—acquisition did not occur until the invention of movabletype in the fifteenth century by Gutenberg and others. Prior to 1500, by the most optimisticestimates, Europe was producing books at a rate of 1000 titles per year. This means, give ortake a bit, that it would take a full century to produce a library of 100,000 titles. By 1950,four and a half centuries later, the rate had accelerated so sharply that Europe was producing120,000 titles a year. What once took a century now took only ten months. By 1960, a singledecade later, the rate had made another significant jump, so that a centurys work could becompleted in seven and a half months. And, by the mid-sixties, the output of books on aworld scale, Europe included, approached the prodigious figure of 1000 titles per day.
One can hardly argue that every book is a net gain for the advancement of knowledge.Nevertheless, we find that the accelerative curve in book publication does, in fact, crudelyparallel the rate at which man discovered new knowledge. For example, prior to Gutenbergonly 11 chemical elements were known. Antimony, the 12th, was discovered at about thetime he was working on his invention. It was fully 200 years since the 11th, arsenic, had beendiscovered. Had the same rate of discovery continued, we would by now have added onlytwo or three additional elements to the periodic table since Gutenberg. Instead, in the 450years after his time, some seventy additional elements were discovered. And since 1900 wehave been isolating the remaining elements not at a rate of one every two centuries, but ofone every three years. Furthermore, there is reason to believe that the rate is still rising sharply. Today, forexample, the number of scientific journals and articles is doubling, like industrial productionin the advanced countries, about every fifteen years, and according to biochemist PhilipSiekevitz, "what has been learned in the last three decades about the nature of living beingsdwarfs in extent of knowledge any comparable period of scientific discovery in the history ofmankind." Today the United States government alone generates 100,000 reports each year,plus 450,000 articles, books and papers. On a worldwide basis, scientific and technicalliterature mounts at a rate of some 60,000,000 pages a year. The computer burst upon the scene around 1950. With its unprecedented power foranalysis and dissemination of extremely varied kinds of data in unbelievable quantities and atmind-staggering speeds, it has become a major force behind the latest acceleration inknowledge-acquisition. Combined with other increasingly powerful analytical tools forobserving the invisible universe around us, it has raised the rate of knowledge-acquisition todumbfounding speeds. Francis Bacon told us that "Knowledge ... is power." This can now be translated intocontemporary terms. In our social setting, "Knowledge is change"—and acceleratingknowledge-acquisition, fueling the great engine of technology, means accelerating change. THE FLOW OF SITUATIONSDiscovery. Application. Impact. Discovery. We see here a chain reaction of change, a long,sharply rising curve of acceleration in human social development. This accelerative thrust hasnow reached a level at which it can no longer, by any stretch of the imagination, be regardedas "normal." The normal institutions of industrial society can no longer contain it, and itsimpact is shaking up all our social institutions. Acceleration is one of the most important andleast understood of all social forces. This, however, is only half the story. For the speed-up of change is a psychologicalforce as well. Although it has been almost totally ignored by psychology, the rising rate ofchange in the world around us disturbs our inner equilibrium, altering the very way in whichwe experience life. Acceleration without translates into acceleration within. This can be illustrated, though in a highly oversimplified fashion, if we think of anindividual life as a great channel through which experience flows. This flow of experienceconsists—or is conceived of consisting—of innumerable "situations." Acceleration of changein the surrounding society drastically alters the flow of situations through this channel. There is no neat definition of a situation, yet we would find it impossible to cope withexperience if we did not mentally cut it up into these manageable units. Moreover, while theboundary lines between situations may be indistinct, every situation has a certain"wholeness" about it, a certain integration. Every situation also has certain identifiablecomponents. These include "things"—a physical setting of natural or man-made objects.
Every situation occurs in a "place"—a location or arena within which the action occurs. (It isnot accidental that the Latin root "situ" means place.) Every social situation also has, bydefinition, a cast of characters—people. Situations also involve a location in theorganizational network of society and a context of ideas or information. Any situation can beanalyzed in terms of these five components. But situations also involve a separate dimension which, because it cuts across all theothers, is frequently overlooked. This is duration—the span of time over which the situationoccurs. Two situations alike in all other respects are not the same at all if one lasts longerthan another. For time enters into the mix in a crucial way, changing the meaning or contentof situations. Just as the funeral march played at too high a speed becomes a merry tinkle ofsounds, so a situation that is dragged out has a distinctly different flavor or meaning than onethat strikes us in staccato fashion, erupting suddenly and subsiding as quickly. Here, then, is the first delicate point at which the accelerative thrust in the larger societycrashes up against the ordinary daily experience of the contemporary individual. For theacceleration of change, as we shall show, shortens the duration of many situations. This notonly drastically alters their "flavor," but hastens their passage through the experientialchannel. Compared with life in a less rapidly changing society, more situations now flowthrough the channel in any given interval of time—and this implies profound changes inhuman psychology. For while we tend to focus on only one situation at a time, the increased rate at whichsituations flow past us vastly complicates the entire structure of life, multiplying the numberof roles we must play and the number of choices we are forced to make. This, in turn,accounts for the choking sense of complexity about contemporary life. Moreover, the speeded-up flow-through of situations demands much more work fromthe complex focusing mechanisms by which we shift our attention from one situation toanother. There is more switching back and forth, less time for extended, peaceful attention toone problem or situation at a time. This is what lies behind the vague feeling noted earlierthat "Things are moving faster." They are. Around us. And through us. There is, however, still another, even more powerfully significant way in which theacceleration of change in society increases the difficulty of coping with life. This stems fromthe fantastic intrusion of novelty, newness into our existence. Each situation is unique. Butsituations often resemble one another. This, in fact, is what makes it possible to learn fromexperience. If each situation were wholly novel, without some resemblance to previouslyexperienced situations, our ability to cope would be hopelessly crippled. The acceleration of change, however, radically alters the balance between novel andfamiliar situations. Rising rates of change thus compel us not merely to cope with a fasterflow, but with more and more situations to which previous personal experience does notapply. And the psychological implications of this simple fact, which we shall explore later inthis book, are nothing short of explosive. "When things start changing outside, you are going to have a parallel change takingplace inside," says Christopher Wright of the Institute for the Study of Science in HumanAffairs. The nature of these inner changes is so profound, however, that, as the accelerativethrust picks up speed, it will test our ability to live within the parameters that have until nowdefined man and society. In the words of psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, "In our society atpresent, the natural course of events is precisely that the rate of change should continue toaccelerate up to the as-yet-unreached limits of human and institutional adaptability." To survive, to avert what we have termed future shock, the individual must becomeinfinitely more adaptable and capable than ever before. He must search out totally new waysto anchor himself, for all the old roots—religion, nation, community, family, or profession—are now shaking under the hurricane impact of the accelerative thrust. Before he can do so,
however, he must understand in greater detail how the effects of acceleration penetrate hispersonal life, creep into his behavior and alter the quality of existence. He must, in otherwords, understand transience.
Chapter 3 THE PACE OF LIFEHis picture was, until recently, everywhere: on television, on posters that stared out at one inairports and railroad stations, on leaflets, matchbooks and magazines. He was an inspiredcreation of Madison Avenue—a fictional character with whom millions could subconsciouslyidentify. Young and clean-cut, he carried an attaché case, glanced at his watch, and lookedlike an ordinary businessman scurrying to his next appointment. He had, however, anenormous protuberance on his back. For sticking out from between his shoulder blades was agreat, butterfly-shaped key of the type used to wind up mechanical toys. The text thataccompanied his picture urged keyed-up executives to "unwind"—to slow down—at theSheraton Hotels. This wound-up man-on-the-go was, and still is, a potent symbol of thepeople of the future, millions of whom feel just as driven and hurried as if they, too, had ahuge key in the back. The average individual knows little and cares less about the cycle of technologicalinnovation or the relationship between knowledge-acquisition and the rate of change. He is,on the other hand, keenly aware of the pace of his own life—whatever that pace may be. The pace of life is frequently commented on by ordinary people. Yet, oddly enough, ithas received almost no attention from either psychologists or sociologists. This is a gapinginadequacy in the behavioral sciences, for the pace of life profoundly influences behavior,evoking strong and contrasting reactions from different people. It is, in fact, not too much to say that the pace of life draws a line through humanity,dividing us into camps, triggering bitter misunderstanding between parent and child, betweenMadison Avenue and Main Street, between men and women, between American andEuropean, between East and West. PEOPLE OF THE FUTUREThe inhabitants of the earth are divided not only by race, nation, religion or ideology, butalso, in a sense, by their position in time. Examining the present populations of the globe, wefind a tiny group who still live, hunting and food-foraging, as men did millennia ago. Others,the vast majority of mankind, depend not on bear-hunting or berry-picking, but onagriculture. They live, in many respects, as their ancestors did centuries ago. These twogroups taken together compose perhaps 70 percent of all living human beings. They are thepeople of the past. By contrast, somewhat more than 2.5 percent of the earths population can be found inthe industrialized societies. They lead modern lives. They are products of the first half of thetwentieth century, molded by mechanization and mass education, brought up with lingeringmemories of their own countrys agricultural past. They are, in effect, the people of thepresent. The remaining two or three percent of the worlds population, however, are no longerpeople of either the past or present. For within the main centers of technological and culturalchange, in Santa Monica, California and Cambridge, Massachusetts, in New York andLondon and Tokyo, are millions of men and women who can already be said to be living theway of life of the future. Trendmakers often without being aware of it, they live today asmillions more will live tomorrow. And while they account for only a few percent of the
global population today, they already form an international nation of the future in our midst.They are the advance agents of man, the earliest citizens of the world-wide super-industrialsociety now in the throes of birth. What makes them different from the rest of mankind? Certainly, they are richer, bettereducated, more mobile than the majority of the human race. They also live longer. But whatspecifically marks the people of the future is the fact that they are already caught up in a new,stepped-up pace of life. They "live faster" than the people around them. Some people are deeply attracted to this highly accelerated pace of life—going far outof their way to bring it about and feeling anxious, tense or uncomfortable when the paceslows. They want desperately to be "where the action is." (Indeed, some hardly care what theaction is, so long as it occurs at a suitably rapid clip.) James A. Wilson has found, forexample, that the attraction for a fast pace of life is one of the hidden motivating forcesbehind the much publicized "brain-drain"—the mass migration of European scientists to theUnited States and Canada. After studying 517 English scientists and engineers who migrated,Wilson concluded that it was not higher salaries or better research facilities alone, but also thequicker tempo that lured them. The migrants, he writes, "are not put off by what they indicateas the faster pace of North America; if anything, they appear to prefer this pace to others."Similarly, a white veteran of the civil rights movement in Mississippi reports: "People whoare used to a speeded-up urban life ... cant take it for long in the rural South. Thats whypeople are always driving somewhere for no particular reason. Traveling is the drug of TheMovement." Seemingly aimless, this driving about is a compensation mechanism.Understanding the powerful attraction that a certain pace of life can exert on the individualhelps explain much otherwise inexplicable or "aimless" behavior. But if some people thrive on the new, rapid pace, others are fiercely repelled by it andgo to extreme lengths to "get off the merry-go-round," as they put it. To engage at all with theemergent super-industrial society means to engage with a faster moving world than everbefore. They prefer to disengage, to idle at their own speed. It is not by chance that a musicalentitled Stop the World—I Want to Get Off was a smash hit in London and New York a fewseasons ago. The quietism and search for new ways to "opt out" or "cop out" that characterizescertain (though not all) hippies may be less motivated by their loudly expressed aversion forthe values of a technological civilization than by an unconscious effort to escape from a paceof life that many find intolerable. It is no coincidence that they describe society as a "rat-race"—a term that refers quite specifically to pacing. Older people are even more likely to react strongly against any further acceleration ofchange. There is a solid mathematical basis for the observation that age often correlates withconservatism: time passes more swiftly for the old. When a fifty-year-old father tells his fifteen-year-old son that he will have to wait twoyears before he can have a car of his own, that interval of 730 days represents a mere 4percent of the fathers lifetime to date. It represents over 13 percent of the boys lifetime. It ishardly strange that to the boy the delay seems three or four times longer than to the father.Similarly, two hours in the life of a four-year-old may be the felt equivalent of twelve hoursin the life of her twenty-four-year-old mother. Asking the child to wait two hours for a pieceof candy may be the equivalent of asking the mother to wait fourteen hours for a cup ofcoffee. There may be a biological basis as well, for such differences in subjective response totime. "With advancing age," writes psychologist John Cohen of the University ofManchester, "the calendar years seem progressively to shrink. In restrospect every year seemsshorter than the year just completed, possibly as a result of the gradual slowing down of
metabolic processes." In relation to the slowdown of their own biological rhythms, the worldwould appear to be moving faster to older people, even if it were not. Whatever the reasons, any acceleration of change that has the effect of crowding moresituations into the experiential channel in a given interval is magnified in the perception ofthe older person. As the rate of change in society speeds up, more and more older people feelthe difference keenly. They, too, become dropouts, withdrawing into a private environment,cutting off as many contacts as possible with the fast-moving outside world, and, finally,vegetating until death. We may never solve the psychological problems of the aged until wefind the means—through biochemistry or re-education—to alter their time sense, or toprovide structured enclaves for them in which the pace of life is controlled, and even,perhaps, regulated according to a "sliding scale" calendar that reflects their own subjectiveperception of time. Much otherwise incomprehensible conflict—between generations, between parents andchildren, between husbands and wives—can be traced to differential responses to theacceleration of the pace of life. The same is true of clashes between cultures. Each culture has its own characteristic pace. F. M. Esfandiary, the Iranian novelist andessayist, tells of a collision between two different pacing systems when German engineers inthe pre-World War II period were helping to construct a railroad in his country. Iranians andMiddle Easterners generally take a far more relaxed attitude toward time than Americans orWestern Europeans. When Iranian work crews consistently showed up for work ten minuteslate, the Germans, themselves super-punctual and always in a hurry, fired them in droves.Iranian engineers had a difficult time persuading them that by Middle Eastern standards theworkers were being heroically punctual, and that if the firings continued there would soon beno one left to do the work but women and children. This indifference to time can be maddening to those who are fast-paced and clock-conscious. Thus Italians from Milan or Turin, the industrial cities of the North, look downupon the relatively slow-paced Sicilians, whose lives are still geared to the slower rhythms ofagriculture. Swedes from Stockholm or Göteborg feel the same way about Laplanders.Americans speak with derision of Mexicans for whom mañana is soon enough. In the UnitedStates itself, Northerners regard Southerners as slow-moving, and middle-class Negroescondemn working-class Negroes just up from the South for operating on "C.P.T."—ColoredPeoples Time. In contrast, by comparison with almost anyone else, white Americans andCanadians are regarded as hustling, fast-moving go-getters. Populations sometimes actively resist a change of pace. This explains the pathologicalantagonism toward what many regard as the "Americanization" of Europe. The newtechnology on which super-industrialism is based, much of it blue-printed in Americanresearch laboratories, brings with it an inevitable acceleration of change in society and aconcomitant speed-up of the pace of individual life as well. While anti-American oratorssingle out computers or Coca-Cola for their barbs, their real objection may well be to theinvasion of Europe by an alien time sense. America, as the spearhead of super-industrialism,represents a new, quicker, and very much unwanted tempo. Precisely this issue is symbolized by the angry outcry that has greeted the recentintroduction of American-style drugstores in Paris. To many Frenchmen, their existence isinfuriating evidence of a sinister "cultural imperialism" on the part of the United States. It ishard for Americans to understand so passionate a response to a perfectly innocent sodafountain. What explains it is the fact that at Le Drugstore the thirsty Frenchman gulps a hastymilkshake instead of lingering for an hour or two over an aperitif at an outdoor bistro. It isworth noticing that, as the new technology has spread in recent years, some 30,000 bistroshave padlocked their doors for good, victims, in the words of Time magazine, of a "short-order culture." (Indeed, it may well be that the widespread European dislike for Time, itself,
is not entirely political, but stems unconsciously from the connotation of its title. Time, withits brevity and breathless style, exports more than the American Way of Life. It embodies andexports the American Pace of Life.) DURATIONAL EXPECTANCYTo understand why acceleration in the pace of life may prove disruptive and uncomfortable,it is important to grasp the idea of "durational expectancies." Mans perception of time is closely linked with his internal rhythms. But his responsesto time are culturally conditioned. Part of this conditioning consists of building up within thechild a series of expectations about the duration of events, processes or relationships. Indeed,one of the most important forms of knowledge that we impart to a child is a knowledge ofhow long things last. This knowledge is taught, in subtle, informal and often unconsciousways. Yet without a rich set of socially appropriate durational expectancies, no individualcould function successfully. From infancy on the child learns, for example, that when Daddy leaves for work in themorning, it means that he will not return for many hours. (If he does, something is wrong; theschedule is askew. The child senses this. Even the family dog—having also learned a set ofdurational expectancies—is aware of the break in routine.) The child soon learns that"mealtime" is neither a one-minute nor a five-hour affair, but that it ordinarily lasts fromfifteen minutes to an hour. He learns that going to a movie lasts two to four hours, but that avisit with the pediatrician seldom lasts more than one. He learns that the school dayordinarily lasts six hours. He learns that a relationship with a teacher ordinarily extends overa school year, but that his relationship with his grandparents is supposed to be of much longerduration. Indeed, some relationships are supposed to last a lifetime. In adult behavior,virtually all we do, from mailing an envelope to making love, is premised upon certainspoken or unspoken assumptions about duration. It is these durational expectancies, different in each society but learned early and deeplyingrained, that are shaken up when the pace of life is altered. This explains a crucial difference between those who suffer acutely from theaccelerated pace of life and those who seem rather to thrive on it. Unless an individual hasadjusted his durational expectancies to take account of continuing acceleration, he is likely tosuppose that two situations, similar in other respects, will also be similar in duration. Yet theaccelerative thrust implies that at least certain kinds of situations will be compressed in time. The individual who has internalized the principle of acceleration—who understands inhis bones as well as his brain that things are moving faster in the world around him—makesan automatic, unconscious compensation for the compression of time. Anticipating thatsituations will endure less long, he is less frequently caught off guard and jolted than theperson whose durational expectancies are frozen, the person who does not routinelyanticipate a frequent shortening in the duration of situations. In short, the pace of life must be regarded as something more than a colloquial phrase, asource of jokes, sighs, complaints or ethnic put-downs. It is a crucially importantpsychological variable that has been all but ignored. During past eras, when change in theouter society was slow, men could, and did, remain unaware of this variable. Throughoutones entire lifetime the pace might vary little. The accelerative thrust, however, alters thisdrastically. For it is precisely through a step-up in the pace of life that the increased speed ofbroad scientific, technological and social change makes itself felt in the life of the individual.A great deal of human behavior is motivated by attraction or antagonism toward the pace oflife enforced on the individual by the society or group within which he is embedded. Failure
to grasp this principle lies behind the dangerous incapacity of education and psychology toprepare people for fruitful roles in a super-industrial society. THE CONCEPT OF TRANSIENCEMuch of our theorizing about social and psychological change presents a valid picture of manin relatively static societies—but a distorted and incomplete picture of the truly contemporaryman. It misses a critical difference between the men of the past or present and the men of thefuture. This difference is summed up in the word "transience." The concept of transience provides a long-missing link between sociological theories ofchange and the psychology of individual human beings. Integrating both, it permits us toanalyze the problems of high-speed change in a new way. And, as we shall see, it gives us amethod—crude but powerful—to measure inferentially the rate of situation flow. Transience is the new "temporariness" in everyday life. It results in a mood, a feeling ofimpermanence. Philosophers and theologians, of course, have always been aware that man isephemeral. In this grand sense, transience has always been a part of life. But today the feelingof impermanence is more acute and intimate. Thus Edward Albees character, Jerry, in TheZoo Story, characterizes himself as a "permanent transient." And critic Harold Clurman,commenting on Albee, writes: "None of us occupy abodes of safety—true homes. We are allthe same people in all the rooming houses everywhere, desperately and savagely trying toeffect soul-satisfying connections with our neighbors." We are, in fact, all citizens of the Ageof Transience. It is, however, not only our relationships with people that seem increasingly fragile orimpermanent. If we divide up mans experience of the world outside himself, we can identifycertain classes of relationships. Thus, in addition to his links with other people, we may speakof the individuals relationship with things. We can single out for examination hisrelationships with places. We can analyze his ties to the institutional or organizationalenvironment around him. We can even study his relationship to certain ideas or to theinformation flow in society. These five relationships—plus time—form the fabric of social experience. This is why,as suggested earlier, things, places, people, organizations and ideas are the basic componentsof all situations. It is the individuals distinctive relationship to each of these components thatstructures the situation. And it is precisely these relationships that, as acceleration occurs in society, becomeforeshortened, telescoped in time. Relationships that once endured for long spans of time nowhave shorter life expectancies. It is this abbreviation, this compression, that gives rise to thealmost tangible feeling that we live, rootless and uncertain, among shifting dunes. Transience, indeed, can be defined quite specifically in terms of the rate at which ourrelationships turn over. While it may be difficult to prove that situations, as such, take lesstime to pass through our experience than before, it is possible to break them down into theircomponents, and to measure the rate at which these components move into and out of ourlives—to measure, in other words, the duration of relationships. It will help us understand the concept of transience if we think in terms of the idea of"turnover." In a grocery store, for example, milk turns over more rapidly than, say, cannedasparagus. It is sold and replaced more rapidly. The "through-put" is faster. The alertbusinessman knows the turnover rate for each of the items he sells, and the general rate forthe entire store. He knows, in fact, that his turnover rate is a key indicator of the health of theenterprise.
We can, by analogy, think of transience as the rate of turnover of the different kinds ofrelationships in an individuals life. Moreover, each of us can be characterized in terms of thisrate. For some, life is marked by a much slower rate of turnover than for others. The peopleof the past and present lead lives of relatively "low transience"—their relationships tend to belonglasting. But the people of the future live in a condition of "high transience"—a conditionin which the duration of relationships is cut short, the through-put of relationships extremelyrapid. In their lives, things, places, people, ideas, and organizational structures all get "usedup" more quickly. This affects immensely the way they experience reality, their sense of commitment, andtheir ability—or inability—to cope. It is this fast through-put, combined with increasingnewness and complexity in the environment, that strains the capacity to adapt and creates thedanger of future shock. If we can show that our relationships with the outer world are, in fact, growing moreand more transient, we have powerful evidence for the assumption that the flow of situationsis speeding up. And we have an incisive new way of looking at ourselves and others. Let us,therefore, explore life in a high transience society.
Chapter 4 THINGS: THE THROW-AWAY SOCIETY"Barbie," a twelve-inch plastic teen-ager, is the best-known and best-selling doll in history.Since its introduction in 1959, the Barbie doll population of the world has grown to12,000,000—more than the human population of Los Angeles or London or Paris. Little girlsadore Barbie because she is highly realistic and eminently dress-upable. Mattel, Inc., makersof Barbie, also sells a complete wardrobe for her, including clothes for ordinary daytimewear, clothes for formal party wear, clothes for swimming and skiing. Recently Mattel announced a new improved Barbie doll. The new version has aslimmer figure, "real" eyelashes, and a twist-and-turn waist that makes her more humanoidthan ever. Moreover, Mattel announced that, for the first time, any young lady wishing topurchase a new Barbie would receive a trade-in allowance for her old one. What Mattel did not announce was that by trading in her old doll for a technologicallyimproved model, the little girl of today, citizen of tomorrows super-industrial world, wouldlearn a fundamental lesson about the new society: that mans relationships with things areincreasingly temporary. The ocean of man-made physical objects that surrounds us is set within a larger oceanof natural objects. But increasingly, it is the technologically produced environment thatmatters for the individual. The texture of plastic or concrete, the iridescent glisten of anautomobile under a streetlight, the staggering vision of a cityscape seen from the window of ajet—these are the intimate realities of his existence. Man-made things enter into and color hisconsciousness. Their number is expanding with explosive force, both absolutely and relativeto the natural environment. This will be even more true in super-industrial society than it istoday. Anti-materialists tend to deride the importance of "things." Yet things are highlysignificant, not merely because of their functional utility, but also because of theirpsychological impact. We develop relationships with things. Things affect our sense ofcontinuity or discontinuity. They play a role in the structure of situations and theforeshortening of our relationships with things accelerates the pace of life. Moreover, our attitudes toward things reflect basic value judgments. Nothing could bemore dramatic than the difference between the new breed of little girls who cheerfully turn intheir Barbies for the new improved model and those who, like their mothers andgrandmothers before them, clutch lingeringly and lovingly to the same doll until itdisintegrates from sheer age. In this difference lies the contrast between past and future,between societies based on permanence, and the new, fast-forming society based ontransience. THE PAPER WEDDING GOWNThat man-thing relationships are growing more and more temporary may be illustrated byexamining the culture surrounding the little girl who trades in her doll. This child soon learnsthat Barbie dolls are by no means the only physical objects that pass into and out of heryoung life at a rapid clip. Diapers, bibs, paper napkins, Kleenex, towels, non-returnable sodabottles—all are used up quickly in her home and ruthlessly eliminated. Corn muffins come inbaking tins that are thrown away after one use. Spinach is encased in plastic sacks that can be
dropped into a pan of boiling water for heating, and then thrown away. TV dinners arecooked and often served on throw-away trays. Her home is a large processing machinethrough which objects flow, entering and leaving, at a faster and faster rate of speed. Frombirth on, she is inextricably embedded in a throw-away culture. The idea of using a product once or for a brief period and then replacing it, runs counterto the grain of societies or individuals steeped in a heritage of poverty. Not long ago UrielRone, a market researcher for the French advertising agency Publicis, told me: "The Frenchhousewife is not used to disposable products. She likes to keep things, even old things, ratherthan throw them away. We represented one company that wanted to introduce a kind ofplastic throw-away curtain. We did a marketing study for them and found the resistance toostrong." This resistance, however, is dying all over the developed world. Thus a writer, Edward Maze, has pointed out that many Americans visiting Sweden inthe early 1950s were astounded by its cleanliness. "We were almost awed by the fact thatthere were no beer and soft drink bottles by the roadsides, as, much to our shame, there werein America. But by the 1960s, lo and behold, bottles were suddenly blooming along Swedishhighways ... What happened? Sweden had become a buy, use and throw-away society,following the American pattern." In Japan today throw-away tissues are so universal thatcloth handkerchiefs are regarded as old fashioned, not to say unsanitary. In England forsixpence one may buy a "Dentamatic throw-away toothbrush" which comes already coatedwith toothpaste for its one-time use. And even in France, disposable cigarette lighters arecommonplace. From cardboard milk containers to the rockets that power space vehicles,products created for short-term or one-time use are becoming more numerous and crucial toour way of life. The recent introduction of paper and quasi-paper clothing carried the trend towarddisposability a step further. Fashionable boutiques and working-class clothing stores havesprouted whole departments devoted to gaily colored and imaginatively designed paperapparel. Fashion magazines display breathtakingly sumptuous gowns, coats, pajamas, evenwedding dresses made of paper. The bride pictured in one of these wears a long white train oflace-like paper that, the caption writer notes, will make "great kitchen curtains" after theceremony. Paper clothes are particularly suitable for children. Writes one fashion expert: "Littlegirls will soon be able to spill ice cream, draw pictures and make cutouts on their clotheswhile their mothers smile benignly at their creativity." And for adults who want to expresstheir own creativity, there is even a "paint-yourself-dress" complete with brushes. Price:$2.00. Price, of course, is a critical factor behind the paper explosion. Thus a department storefeatures simple A-line dresses made of what it calls "devil-may-care cellulose fiber andnylon." At $1.29 each, it is almost cheaper for the consumer to buy and discard a new onethan to send an ordinary dress to the cleaners. Soon it will be. But more than economics isinvolved, for the extension of the throw-away culture has important psychologicalconsequences. We develop a throw-away mentality to match our throw-away products. This mentalityproduces, among other things, a set of radically altered values with respect to property. Butthe spread of disposability through the society also implies decreased durations in man-thingrelationships. Instead of being linked with a single object over a relatively long span of time,we are linked for brief periods with the succession of objects that supplant it. THE MISSING SUPERMARKET
The shift toward transience is even manifest in architecture—precisely that part of thephysical environment that in the past contributed mostly heavily to mans sense ofpermanence. The child who trades in her Barbie doll cannot but also recognize the transienceof buildings and other large structures that surround her. We raze landmarks. We tear downwhole streets and cities and put new ones up at a mind-numbing rate. "The average age of dwellings has steadily declined," writes E. F. Carter of theStanford Research Institute, "from being virtually infinite in the days of caves to ...approximately a hundred years for houses built in United States colonial days, to about fortyyears at present." And Michael Wood, an English writer comments: The American "... madehis world yesterday, and he knows exactly how fragile, how shifting it is. Buildings in NewYork literally disappear overnight, and the face of a city can change completely in a year." Novelist Louis Auchincloss complains angrily that "The horror of living in New Yorkis living in a city without a history ... All eight of my great-grandparents lived in the city ...and only one of the houses they lived in ... is still standing. Thats what I mean by thevanishing past." Less patrician New Yorkers, whose ancestors landed in America morerecently, arriving there from the barrios of Puerto Rico, the villages of Eastern Europe or theplantations of the South, might voice their feelings quite differently. Yet the "Vanishing past"is a real phenomenon, and it is likely to become far more widespread, engulfing even many ofthe history-drenched cities of Europe. Buckminster Fuller, the designer-philosopher, once described New York as a "continualevolutionary process of evacuations, demolitions, removals, temporarily vacant lots, newinstallations and repeat. This process is identical in principle to the annual rotation of crops infarm acreage—plowing, planting the new seed, harvesting, plowing under, and putting inanother type of crop ... Most people look upon the building operations blocking New Yorksstreets ... as temporary annoyances, soon to disappear in a static peace. They still think ofpermanence as normal, a hangover from the Newtonian view of the universe. But those whohave lived in and with New York since the beginning of the century have literallyexperienced living with Einsteinian relativity." That children, in fact, internalize this "Einsteinian relativity" was brought home to meforcibly by a personal experience. Some time ago my wife sent my daughter, then twelve, toa supermarket a few blocks from our Manhattan apartment. Our little girl had been there onlyonce or twice before. Half an hour later she returned perplexed. "It must have been torndown," she said, "I couldnt find it." It hadnt been. New to the neighborhood, Karen hadmerely looked on the wrong block. But she is a child of the Age of Transience, and herimmediate assumption—that the building had been razed and replaced—was a natural one fora twelve-year-old growing up in the United States at this time. Such an idea would probablynever have occurred to a child faced with a similar predicament even half a century ago. Thephysical environment was far more durable, our links with it less transient. THE ECONOMICS OF IMPERMANENCEIn the past, permanence was the ideal. Whether engaged in handcrafting a pair of boots or inconstructing a cathedral, all mans creative and productive energies went toward maximizingthe durability of the product. Man built to last. He had to. As long as the society around himwas relatively unchanging each object had clearly defined functions, and economic logicdictated the policy of permanence. Even if they had to be repaired now and then, the bootsthat cost fifty dollars and lasted ten years were less expensive than those that cost ten dollarsand lasted only a year.
As the general rate of change in society accelerates, however, the economics ofpermanence are—and must be—replaced by the economics of transience. First, advancing technology tends to lower the costs of manufacture much more rapidlythan the costs of repair work. The one is automated, the other remains largely a handcraftoperation. This means that it often becomes cheaper to replace than to repair. It iseconomically sensible to build cheap, unrepairable, throwaway objects, even though theymay not last as long as repairable objects. Second, advancing technology makes it possible to improve the object as time goes by.The second generation computer is better than the first, and the third is better than the second.Since we can anticipate further technological advance, more improvements coming at evershorter intervals, it often makes hard economic sense to build for the short term rather thanthe long. David Lewis, an architect and city planner with Urban Design Associates inPittsburgh, tells of certain apartment houses in Miami that are torn down after only ten yearsof existence. Improved air conditioning systems in newer buildings hurt the rentability ofthese "old" buildings. All things considered, it becomes cheaper to tear down the ten-year-oldbuildings than to modify them. Third, as change accelerates and reaches into more and more remote corners of thesociety, uncertainty about future needs increases. Recognizing the inevitability of change, butunsure as to the demands it will impose on us, we hesitate to commit large resources forrigidly fixed objects intended to serve unchanging purposes. Avoiding commitment to fixedforms and functions, we build for short-term use or, alternatively, attempt to make theproduct itself adaptable. We "play it cool" technologically. The rise of disposability—the spread of the throw-away culture—is a response to thesepowerful pressures. As change accelerates and complexities multiply, we can expect to seefurther extensions of the principle of disposability, further curtailment of mans relationshipswith things. THE PORTABLE PLAYGROUNDThere are other responses besides disposability that also lead to the same psychologicaleffect. For example, we are now witnessing the wholesale creation of objects designed toserve a series of short-term purposes instead of a single one. These are not throw-away items.They are usually too big and expensive to discard. But they are so constructed that they maybe dismantled, if necessary, and relocated after each use. Thus the board of education of Los Angeles has decided that fully 25 percent of thatcitys classrooms will, in the future, be temporary structures that can be moved around asneeded. Every major United States school district today uses some temporary classrooms.More are on the way. Indeed, temporary classrooms are to the school construction industrywhat paper dresses are to the clothing industry—a foretaste of the future. The purpose of temporary classrooms is to help school systems cope with rapidlyshifting population densities. But temporary classrooms, like disposable clothes, imply man-thing relationships of shorter duration than in the past. Thus the temporary classroom teachessomething even in the absence of a teacher. Like the Barbie doll, it provides the child with avivid lesson in the impermanence of her surroundings. No sooner does the child internalize athorough knowledge of the classroom—the way it fits into the surrounding architecture, theway the desks feel on a hot day, the way sound reverberates in it, all the subtle smells andtextures that individualize any structure and lend it reality—than the structure itself may bephysically removed from her environment to serve other children in another place.
Nor are mobile classrooms a purely American phenomenon. In England, architectCedric Price has designed what he calls a "thinkbelt"—an entirely mobile university intendedto serve 20,000 students in North Staffordshire. "It will," he says, "rely on temporarybuildings rather than permanent ones." It will make "great use of mobile and variablephysical enclosures"—classrooms, for example, built inside railroad cars so that they may beshunted anywhere along the four-mile campus. Geodesic domes to house expositions, air-inflated plastic bubbles for use as commandposts or construction headquarters, a whole array of pick-up-and-move temporary structuresare flowing from the drawing boards of engineers and architects. In New York City, theDepartment of Parks has decided to build twelve "portable playgrounds"—small, temporaryplaygrounds to be installed on vacant city lots until other uses are found for the land, at whichtime the playgrounds can be dismounted and moved elsewhere. There was a time when aplayground was a reasonably permanent fixture in a neighborhood, when ones children andeven, perhaps, ones childrens children might, each in their turn, experience it in roughly thesame way. Super-industrial playgrounds, however, refuse to stay put. They are temporary bydesign. THE MODULAR "FUN PALACE"The reduction in the duration of man-thing relationships brought about by the proliferation ofthrow-away items and temporary structures is further intensified by the rapid spread of"modularism." Modularism may be defined as the attempt to lend whole structures greaterpermanence at the cost of making their sub-structures less permanent. Thus Cedric Prices"thinkbelt" plan proposes that faculty and student apartments consist of pressed-steel modulesthat can be hoisted by crane and plugged into building frames. The frames become the onlyrelatively permanent parts of the structure. The apartment modules can be shifted around asneeded, or even, in theory, completely discarded and replaced. It needs to be emphasized here that the distinction between disposability and mobilityis, from the point of view of the duration of relationships, a thin one. Even when modules arenot discarded, but merely rearranged, the result is a new configuration, a new entity. It is as ifone physical structure had, in reality, been discarded and a new one created, even thoughsome or all of the components remain the same. Even many supposedly "permanent" buildings today are constructed on a modular planso that interior walls and partitions may be shifted at will to form new enclosure patternsinside. The mobile partition, indeed, might well serve as a symbol of the transient society.One scarcely ever enters a large office today without tripping over a crew of workers busilymoving desks and rearranging interior space by reorganizing the partitions. In Sweden a newtriumph of modularism has recently been achieved: in a model apartment house in Uppsalaall walls and closets are movable. The tenant needs only a screwdriver to transform his livingspace completely, to create, in effect, a new apartment. Sometimes, however, modularity is directly combined with disposability. The simple,ubiquitous ballpoint pen provides an example. The original goose-quill pen had a long lifeexpectancy. Barring accident, it lasted a long time and could be resharpened (i.e., repaired)from time to time to extend its life. The fountain pen, however, was a great technologicaladvance because it gave the user mobility. It provided a writing tool that carried its owninkwell, thus vastly increasing its range of usefulness. The invention of the ball pointconsolidated and extended this advance. It provided a pen that carried its own ink supply, butthat, in addition, was so cheap it could be thrown away when empty. The first trulydisposable pen-and-ink combination had been created.
We have, however, not yet outgrown the psychological attitudes that accompanyscarcity. Thus there are still many people today who feel a twinge of guilt at discarding evena spent ball-point pen. The response of the pen industry to this psychological reality was thecreation of a ball-point pen built on the modular principle—an outer frame that the user couldkeep, and an inner ink module or cartridge that he could throw away and replace. By makingthe ink cartridge expendable, the whole structure is given extended life at the expense of thesub-structure. There are, however, more parts than wholes. And whether he is shifting them around tocreate new wholes or discarding and replacing them, the user experiences a more rapidthrough-put of things through his life, a generalized decline in the average duration of hisrelationship with things. The result is a new fluidity, mobility and transience. One of the most extreme examples of architecture designed to embody these principleswas the plan put forward by the English theatrical producer Joan Littlewood with the help ofFrank Newby, a structural engineer, Gordon Pask, a systems consultant, and Cedric Price, the"thinkbelt" architect. Miss Littlewood wanted a theater in which versatility might be maximized, in whichshe might present anything from an ordinary play to a political rally, from a performance ofdance to a wrestling match—preferably all at the same time. She wanted, as the critic ReynerBanham has put it, a "zone of total probability." The result was a fantastic plan for "The FunPalace," otherwise known as the "First Giant Space Mobile in the World." The plan calls notfor a multi-purpose building, but for what is, in effect, a larger than life-sized Erector Set, acollection of modular parts that can be hung together in an almost infinite variety of ways.More or less "permanent" vertical towers house various services—such as toilets andelectronic control units—and are topped by gantry cranes that lift the modules into positionand assemble them to form any temporary configuration desired. After an eveningsentertainment, the cranes come out, disassemble the auditoria, exhibition halls andrestaurants, and store them away. Here is the way Reyner Banham describes it: "... the Fun Palace is a piece of ten-year-expendable urban equipment ... Day by day this giant neo-Futurist machine will stir andreshuffle its movable parts—walls and floors, ramps and walks, steerable escalators, seatingand roofing, stages and movie screens, lighting and sound systems—sometimes with only asmall part walled in, but with the public poking about the exposed walks and stairs, pressingbuttons to make things happen themselves. "This, when it happens (and it is on the cards that it will, somewhere, soon) will beindeterminacy raised to a new power: no permanent monumental interior space or heroicsilhouette against the sky will survive for posterity ... For the only permanently visibleelements of the Fun Palace will be the life-support structure on which the transientarchitecture will be parasitic." Proponents of what has become known as "plug-in" or "clip-on" architecture havedesigned whole cities based on the idea of "transient architecture." Extending the concepts onwhich the Fun Palace plan is based, they propose the construction of different types ofmodules which would be assigned different life expectancies. Thus the core of a "building"might be engineered to last twenty-five years, while the plug-in room modules are built tolast only three years. Letting their imaginations roam still further, they have conjured upmobile skyscrapers that rest not on fixed foundations but on gigantic "ground effect"machines or hovercraft. The ultimate is an entire urban agglomeration freed of fixed position,floating on a cushion of air, powered by nuclear energy, and changing its inner shape evenmore rapidly than New York does today. Whether or not precisely these visions become reality, the fact is that society is movingin this direction. The extension of the throw-away culture, the creation of more and more
temporary structures, the spread of modularism are proceeding apace, and they all conspiretoward the same psychological end: the ephemeralization of mans links with the things thatsurround him. THE RENTAL REVOLUTIONStill another development is drastically altering the man-thing nexus: the rental revolution.The spread of rentalism, a characteristic of societies rocketing toward super-industrialism, isintimately connected with all the tendencies described above. The link between Hertz cars,disposable diapers, and Joan Littlewoods "Fun Palace," may seem obscure at first glance, butcloser inspection reveals strong inner similarities. For rentalism, too, intensifies transience. During the depression, when millions were jobless and homeless, the yearning for ahome of ones own was one of the most powerful economic motivations in capitalist societies.In the United States today the desire for home ownership is still strong, but ever since the endof World War II the percentage of new housing devoted to rental apartments has beensoaring. As late as 1955 apartments accounted for only 8 percent of new housing starts. By1961 it reached 24 percent. By 1969, for the first time in the United States, more buildingpermits were being issued for apartment construction than for private homes. Apartmentliving, for a variety of reasons, is "in." It is particularly in among young people who, in thewords of MIT Professor Burnham Kelly, want "minimum-involvement housing." Minimum involvement is precisely what the user of a throw-away product gets for hismoney. It is also what temporary structures and modular components foster. Commitments toapartments are, almost by definition, shorter term commitments than those made by ahomeowner to his home. The trend toward residential renting thus underscores the tendencytoward ever-briefer relationships with the physical environment.* More striking than this, however, has been the recent upsurge of rental activity in fieldsin which it was all but unknown in the past. David Riesman has written: "People are fond oftheir cars; they like to talk about them—something that comes out very clearly ininterviews—but their affection for any one in particular rarely reaches enough intensity tobecome long-term." This is reflected in the fact that the average car owner in the UnitedStates keeps his automobile only three and a half years; many of the more affluent trade intheir automobiles every year or two. In turn, this accounts for the existence of a twenty-billion-dollar used car business in the United States. It was the automotive industry that firstsucceeded in destroying the traditional notion that a major purchase had to be a permanentcommitment. The annual model changeover, high-powered advertising, backed by theindustrys willingness to offer trade-in allowances, made the purchase of a new (or new used)car a relatively frequent occurrence in the life of the average American male. In effect, itshortened the interval between purchases, thereby shortening the duration of the relationshipbetween an owner and any one vehicle. In recent years, however, a spectacular new force has emerged to challenge many of themost deeply ingrained patterns of the automotive industry. This is the auto rental business.Today in the United States millions of motorists rent automobiles from time to time forperiods of a few hours up to several months. Many big-city dwellers, especially in New Yorkwhere parking is a nightmare, refuse to own a car, preferring to rent one for weekend trips tothe country, or even for in-town trips that are inconvenient by public transit. Autos today canbe rented with a minimum of red tape at almost any US airport, railroad station or hotel. Moreover, Americans have carried the rental habit abroad with them. Nearly half amillion of them rent cars while overseas each year. This figure is expected to rise to nearly amillion by 1975, and the big American rental companies, operating now in some fifty
countries around the globe, are beginning to run into foreign competitors. Simultaneously,European motorists are beginning to emulate the Americans. A cartoon in Paris Match showsa creature from outer space standing next to his flying saucer and asking a gendarme wherehe can rent an auto. The idea is catching on. The rise of auto rentals, meanwhile, has been paralleled by the emergence in the UnitedStates of a new kind of general store—one which sells nothing but rents everything. Thereare now some 9000 such stores in the United States with an annual rental volume on the orderof one billion dollars and a growth rate of from 10 to 20 percent per year. Virtually 50percent of these stores were not in business five years ago. Today, there is scarcely a productthat cannot be rented, from ladders and lawn equipment to mink coats and originals Rouaults. In Los Angeles, rental firms provide live shrubs and trees for real estate developerswho wish to landscape model homes temporarily. "Plants enhance—rent living plants," saysthe sign on the side of a truck in San Francisco. In Philadelphia one may rent shirts.Elsewhere, Americans now rent everything from gowns, crutches, jewels, TV sets, campingequipment, air conditioners, wheelchairs, linens, skis, tape recorders, champagne fountains,and silverware. A West Coast mens club rented a human skeleton for a demonstration, andan ad in the Wall Street Journal even urges: "Rent-a-Cow." Not long ago the Swedish womens magazine Svensk Damtidning ran a five-part seriesabout the world of 1985. Among other things, it suggested that by then "we will sleep inbuilt-in sleeping furniture with buttons for when we eat breakfast or read, or else we will renta bed at the same place that we rent the table and the paintings and the washing machine." Impatient Americans are not waiting for 1985. Indeed, one of the most significantaspects of the booming rental business is the rise of furniture rental. Some manufacturers andmany rental firms will now furnish entire small apartments for as little as twenty to fiftydollars per month, down to the drapes, rugs and ashtrays. "You arrive in town in themorning," says one airline stewardess, "and by evening youve got a swinging pad." Says aCanadian transferred to New York: "Its new, its colorful, and I dont have to worry aboutcarting it all over the world when Im transferred." William James once wrote that "lives based on having are less free than lives basedeither on doing or on being." The rise of rentalism is a move away from lives based on havingand it reflects the increase in doing and being. If the people of the future live faster than thepeople of the past, they must also be far more flexible. They are like broken field runners—and it is hard to sidestep a tackle when loaded down with possessions. They want theadvantage of affluence and the latest that technology has to offer, but not the responsibilitythat has, until now, accompanied the accumulation of possessions. They recognize that tosurvive among the uncertainties of rapid change they must learn to travel light. Whatever its broader effects, however, rentalism shortens still further the duration ofthe relationships between man and the things that he uses. This is made clear by asking asimple question: How many cars—rented, borrowed or owned—pass through the hands ofthe average American male in a lifetime? The answer for car owners might be in the range oftwenty to fifty. For active car renters, however, the figure might run as high as 200 or more.While the buyers average relationship with a particular vehicle extends over many months oryears, the renters average link with any one particular car is extremely short-lived. Renting has the net effect of multiplying the number of people with successiverelationships to the same object, and thus reducing, on average, the duration of suchrelationships. When we extend this principle to a very wide range of products, it becomesclear that the rise of rentalism parallels and reinforces the impact of throw-away items,temporary structures and modularism.
* It might be noted that millions of American home "owners," having purchased a home with a downpayment of 10 percent or less, are actually no more than surrogate owners for banks and other lendinginstitutions. For these families, the monthly check to the bank is no different from the rent check to the landlord.Their ownership is essentially metaphorical, and since they lack a strong financial stake in their property, theyalso frequently lack the homeowners strong psychological commitment to it. TEMPORARY NEEDSIt is important here to turn for a moment to the notion of obsolescence. For the fear ofproduct obsolescence drives businessmen to innovation at the same time that it impels theconsumer toward rented, disposable or temporary products. The very idea of obsolescence isdisturbing to people bred on the ideal of permanence, and it is particularly upsetting whenthought to be planned. Planned obsolescence has been the target of so much recent socialcriticism that the unwary reader might be led to regard it as the primary or even exclusivecause of the trend toward shorter relational durations. There is no doubt that some businessmen conspire to shorten the useful life of theirproducts in order to guarantee replacement sales. There is, similarly, no doubt that many ofthe annual model changes with which American (and other) consumers are increasinglyfamiliar are not technologically substantive. Detroits autos today deliver no more mileage pergallon of gasoline than they did ten model changes back, and the oil companies, for all theadditives about which they boast, still put a turtle, not a tiger, in the tank. Moreover, it isincontestable that Madison Avenue frequently exaggerates the importance of new featuresand encourages consumers to dispose of partially worn-out goods to make way for the new. It is therefore true that the consumer is sometimes caught in a carefully engineeredtrap—an old product whose death has been deliberately hastened by its manufacturer, and thesimultaneous appearance of a "new improved" model advertised as the latest heaven-senttriumph of advanced technology. Nevertheless, these reasons by themselves cannot begin to account for the fantastic rateof turnover of the products in our lives. Rapid obsolescence is an integral part of the entireaccelerative process—a process involving not merely the life span of sparkplugs, but ofwhole societies. Bound up with the rise of science and the speed-up in the acquisition ofknowledge, this historic process can hardly be attributed to the evil design of a fewcontemporary hucksters. Clearly, obsolescence occurs with or without "planning." With respect to things,obsolescence occurs under three conditions. It occurs when a product literally deteriorates tothe point at which it can no longer fulfill its functions—bearings burn out, fabrics tear, pipesrust. Assuming the same functions still need to be performed for the consumer, the failure ofa product to perform these functions marks the point at which its replacement is required.This is obsolescence due to functional failure. Obsolescence also occurs when some new product arrives on the scene to perform thesefunctions more effectively than the old product could. The new antibiotics do a moreeffective job of curing infection than the old. The new computers are infinitely faster andcheaper to operate than the antique models of the early 1960s. This is obsolescence due tosubstantive technological advance. But obsolescence also occurs when the needs of the consumer change, when thefunctions to be performed by the product are themselves altered. These needs are not assimply described as the critics of planned obsolescence sometimes assume. An object,whether a car or a can opener, may be evaluated along many different parameters. A car, forexample, is more than a conveyance. It is an expression of the personality of the user, asymbol of status, a source of that pleasure associated with speed, a source of a wide variety of
sensory stimuli—tactile, olfactory, visual, etc. The satisfaction a consumer gains from suchfactors may, depending upon his values, outweigh the satisfaction he might receive fromimproved gas consumption or pickup power. The traditional notion that each object has a single easily definable function clasheswith all that we now know about human psychology, about the role of values in decision-making, and with ordinary common sense as well. All products are multi-functional. An excellent illustration of this occurred not long ago when I watched a little boypurchase half a dozen pink erasers at a little stationery store. Curious as to why he wanted somany of them, I picked one up for closer examination. "Do they erase well?" I asked the boy."I dont know,." he said, "but they sure smell good!" And, indeed, they did. They had beenheavily perfumed by the Japanese manufacturer perhaps to mask an unpleasant chemicalodor. In short, the needs filled by products vary by purchaser and through time. In a society of scarcity, needs are relatively universal and unchanging because they arestarkly related to the "gut" functions. As affluence rises, however, human needs become lessdirectly linked to biological survival and more highly individuated. Moreover, in a societycaught up in complex, high-speed change, the needs of the individual—which arise out of hisinteraction with the external environment—also change at relatively high speed. The morerapidly changing the society, the more temporary the needs. Given the general affluence ofthe new society, he can indulge many of these short-term needs. Often, without even having a clear idea of what needs he wants served, the consumerhas a vague feeling that he wants a change. Advertising encourages and capitalizes on thisfeeling, but it can hardly be credited with having created it single-handedly. The tendencytoward shorter relational durations is thus built more deeply into the social structure thanarguments over planned obsolescence or the manipulative effectiveness of Madison Avenuewould suggest. The rapidity with which consumers needs shift is reflected in the alacrity with whichbuyers abandon product and brand loyalty. If Assistant Attorney General Donald F. Turner, aleading critic of advertising, is correct, one of the primary purposes of advertising is to create"durable preferences." If so, it is failing, for brand-switching is so frequent and common thatit has become, in the words of one food industry publication, "one of the national advertisersmajor headaches." Many brands drop out of existence. Among brands that continue to exist there is acontinual reshuffling of position. According to Henry M. Schachte, "In almost no majorconsumer goods category ... is there a brand on top today which held that position ten yearsago." Thus among ten leading American cigarettes, only one, Pall Mall, maintained in 1966the same share of the market that it held in 1956. Camels plunged from 18 to 9 percent of themarket; Lucky Strike declined even more sharply, from 14 to 6 percent. Other brands movedup, with Salem, for example, rising from 1 to 9 percent. Additional fluctuations haveoccurred since this survey. However insignificant these shifts may be from the long-run view of the historian, thiscontinual shuffling and reshuffling, influenced but not independently controlled byadvertising, introduces into the short-run, everyday life of the individual a dazzlingdynamism. It heightens still further the sense of speed, turmoil and impermanence in society. THE FAD MACHINEFast-shifting preferences, flowing out of and interacting with high-speed technologicalchange, not only lead to frequent changes in the popularity of products and brands, but alsoshorten the life cycle of products. Automation expert John Diebold never wearies of pointing
out to businessmen that they must begin to think in terms of shorter life spans for their goods.Smith Brothers Cough Drops, Calumet Baking Soda and Ivory Soap, have become Americaninstitutions by virtue of their long reign in the market place. In the days ahead, he suggests,few products will enjoy such longevity. Every consumer has had the experience of going tothe supermarket or department store to replace some item, only to find that he cannot locatethe same brand or product. In 1966 some 7000 new products turned up in Americansupermarkets. Fully 55 percent of all the items now sold there did not exist ten years ago.And of the products available then, 42 percent have faded away altogether. Each year theprocess repeats itself in more extreme form. Thus 1968 saw 9,500 new items in the consumerpackaged-goods field alone, with only one in five meeting its sales target. A silent but rapidattrition kills off the old, and new products sweep in like a ride. "Products that used to sell fortwenty-five years," writes economist Robert Theobald, "now often count on no more thanfive. In the volatile pharmaceutical and electronic fields the period is often as short as sixmonths." As the pace of change accelerates further, corporations may create new productsknowing full well that they will remain on the market for only a matter of a few weeks. Here, too, the present already provides us with a foretaste of the future. It lies in anunexpected quarter: the fads now sweeping over the high technology societies in wave afterwave. In the past few years alone, in the United States, Western Europe and Japan, we havewitnessed the sudden rise or collapse in popularity of "Bardot hairdos," the "Cleopatra look,"James Bond, and Batman, not to speak of Tiffany lampshades, Super-Balls, iron crosses, popsunglasses, badges and buttons with protest slogans or pornographic jokes, posters of AllenGinsberg or Humphrey Bogart, false eyelashes, and innumerable other gimcracks andoddities that reflect—are tuned into—the rapidly changing pop culture. Backed by mass media promotion and sophisticated marketing, such fads now explodeon the scene virtually overnight—and vanish just as quickly. Sophisticates in the fad businessprepare in advance for shorter and shorter product life cycles. Thus, there is in San Gabriel,California, a company entitled, with a kind of cornball relish, Wham-O ManufacturingCompany. Wham-O specializes in fad products, having introduced the hula hoop in the fiftiesand the so-called Super-Ball more recently. The latter—a high-bouncing rubber ball—quickly became so popular with adults as well as children that astonished visitors saw severalof them bouncing merrily on the floor of the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange. Wall Streetexecutives gave them away to friends and one high broadcasting official complained that "Allour executives are out in the halls with their Super-Balls." Wham-O, and other companieslike it, however, are not disconcerted when sudden death overtakes their product; theyanticipate it. They are specialists in the design and manufacture of "temporary" products. The fact that fads are generated artificially, to a large extent, merely underscores theirsignificance. Even engineered fads are not new to history. But never before have they comefleeting across the consciousness in such rapid-fire profusion, and never has there been suchsmooth coordination between those who originate the fad, mass media eager to popularize it,and companies geared for its instantaneous exploitation. A well-oiled machinery for the creation and diffusion of fads is now an entrenched partof the modern economy. Its methods will increasingly be adopted by others as they recognizethe inevitability of the ever-shorter product cycle. The line between "fad" and ordinaryproduct will progressively blur. We are moving swiftly into the era of the temporary product,made by temporary methods, to serve temporary needs. The turnover of things in our lives thus grows even more frenetic. We face a risingflood of throw-away items, impermanent architecture, mobile and modular products, rentedgoods and commodities designed for almost instant death. From all these directions, strongpressures converge toward the same end: the inescapable ephemeralization of the man-thingrelationship.
The foreshortening of our ties with the physical environment, the stepped-up turnoverof things, however, is only a small part of a much larger context. Let us, therefore, pressahead in our exploration of life in high transience society.
Chapter 5 PLACES: THE NEW NOMADSEvery Friday afternoon at 4:30, a tall, graying Wall Street executive named Bruce Robe stuffsa mass of papers into his black leather briefcase, takes his coat off the rack outside his office,and departs. The routine has been the same for more than three years. First, he rides theelevator twenty-nine floors down to street level. Next he strides for ten minutes throughcrowded streets to the Wall Street Heliport. There he boards a helicopter which deposits him,eight minutes later, at John F. Kennedy Airport. Transferring to a Trans-World Airlines jet,he settles down for supper, as the giant craft swings out over the Atlantic, then banks andheads west. One hour and ten minutes later, barring delay, he steps briskly out of the terminalbuilding at the airport in Columbus, Ohio, and enters a waiting automobile. In thirty moreminutes he reaches his destination: he is home. Four nights a week Robe lives at a hotel in Manhattan. The other three he spends withhis wife and children in Columbus, 500 miles away. Claiming the best of two worlds, a job inthe frenetic financial center of America and a family life in the comparatively tranquilMidwest countryside, he shuttles back and forth some 50,000 miles a year. The Robe case is unusual—but not that unusual. In Califomia, ranch owners fly asmuch as 120 miles every morning from their homes on the Pacific Coast or in the SanBernardino Valley to visit their ranches in the Imperial Valley, and then fly back home againat night. One Pennsylvania teen-ager, son of a peripatetic engineer, jets regularly to anorthodontist in Frankfurt, Germany. A University of Chicago philosopher, Dr. RichardMcKeon, commuted 1000 miles each way once a week for an entire semester in order toteach a series of classes at the New School for Social Research in New York. A young SanFranciscoan and his girlfriend in Honolulu see each other every weekend, taking turns atcrossing 2000 miles of Pacific Ocean. And at least one New England matron regularlyswoops down on New York to visit her hairdresser. Never in history has distance meant less. Never have mans relationships with placebeen more numerous, fragile and temporary. Throughout the advanced technologicalsocieties, and particularly among those I have characterized as "the people of the future,"commuting, traveling, and regularly relocating ones family have become second nature.Figuratively, we "use up" places and dispose of them in much the same that we dispose ofKleenex or beer cans. We are witnessing a historic decline in the significance of place tohuman life. We are breeding a new race of nomads, and few suspect quite how massive,widespread and significant their migrations are. THE 3,000,000-MILE CLUBIn 1914, according to Buckminster Fuller, the typical American averaged about 1,640 milesper year of total travel, counting some 1,300 miles of just plain everyday walking to and fro.This meant that he traveled only about 340 miles per year with the aid of horse or mechanicalmeans. Using this 1,640 figure as a base, it is possible to estimate that the average Americanof that period moved a total of 88,560 miles in his lifetime.* Today, by contrast, the averageAmerican car owner drives 10,000 miles per year—and he lives longer than his father orgrandfather. "At sixty-nine years of age," wrote Fuller a few years ago, "... I am one of a class
of several million human beings who, in their lifetimes, have each covered 3,000,000 milesor more"—more than thirty times the total lifetime travel of the 1914 American. The aggregate figures are staggering. In 1967, for instance, 108,000,000 Americanstook 360,000,000 trips involving an overnight stay more than 100 miles from home. Thesetrips alone accounted for 312,000,000,000 passenger miles. Even if we ignore the introduction of fleets of jumbo jets, trucks, cars, trains, subwaysand the like, our social investment in mobility is astonishing. Paved roads and streets havebeen added to the American landscape at the incredible rate of more than 200 miles per day,every single day for at least the last twenty years. This adds up to 75,000 miles of new streetsand roads every year, enough to girdle the globe three times. While United States populationincreased during this period by 38.5 percent, street and road mileage shot up 100 percent.Viewed another way, the figures are even more dramatic: passenger miles traveled within theUnited States have been increasing at a rate six times faster than population for at leasttwenty-five years. This revolutionary step-up in per capita movement through space is paralleled, togreater or lesser degree, throughout the most technological nations. Anyone who has watchedthe rush hour traffic pileup on the once peaceful Strandvëg in Stockholm cannot help but bejolted by the sight. In Rotterdam and Amsterdam, streets built as recently as five years agoare already horribly jammed: the number of automobiles has multiplied faster than anyonethen thought possible. In addition to the increase in everyday movement between ones home and variousother nearby points, there is also a phenomenal increase in business and vacation travelinvolving overnight stays away from home. Nearly 1,500,000 Germans will vacation in Spainthis summer, and hundreds of thousands more will populate beaches in Holland and Italy.Sweden annually welcomes more than 1,200,000 visitors from non-Scandinavian nations.More than a million foreigners visit the United States, while roughly 4,000,000 Americanstravel overseas each year. A writer in Le Figaro justifiably refers to "gigantic humanexchanges." This busy movement of men back and forth over the landscape (and sometimes underit) is one of the identifying characteristics of super-industrial society. By contrast, pre-industrial nations seem congealed, frozen, their populations profoundly attached to a singleplace. Transportation expert Wilfred Owen talks about the "gap between the immobile andthe mobile nations." He points out that for Latin America, Africa and Asia to reach the sameratio of road mileage to area that now prevails in the European Economic Community, theywould have to pave some 40,000,000 miles of road. This contrast has profound economicconsequences, but it also has subtle, largely overlooked cultural and psychologicalconsequences. For migrants, travelers and nomads are not the same kind of people as thosewho stay put in one place. * This is based on a life expectancy of 54 years. Actual life expectancy for white males in the UnitedStates in 1920 was 54.1 years. FLAMENCO IN SWEDENPerhaps the most psychologically significant kind of movement that an individual can makeis geographical relocation of his home. This dramatic form of geographical mobility is alsostrikingly evident in the United States and the other advanced nations. Speaking of the UnitedStates, Peter Drucker has said: "The largest migration in our history began during World WarII; and it has continued ever since with undiminished momentum." And political scientist
Daniel Elazar describes the great masses of Americans who "have begun to move from placeto place within each [urban] belt ... preserving a nomadic way of life that is urban withoutbeing permanently attached to any particular city ..." Between March 1967 and March 1968—in a single year—36,600,000 Americans (notcounting children less than one year old) changed their place of residence. This is more thanthe total population of Cambodia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Iraq, Israel, Mongolia,Nicaragua and Tunisia combined. It is as if the entire population of all these countries hadsuddenly been relocated. And movement on this massive scale occurs every year in theUnited States. In each year since 1948 one out of five Americans changed his address,picking up his children, some household effects, and starting life anew at a fresh place. Eventhe great migrations of history, the Mongol hordes, the westward movement of Europeans inthe nineteenth century, seem puny by statistical comparison. While this high rate of geographical mobility in the United States is probablyunmatched anywhere in the world (available statistics, unfortunately, are spotty), even in themore tradition-bound of the advanced countries the age-old ties between man and place arebeing shattered. Thus the New Society, a social science journal published in London, reportsthat "The English are a more mobile race than perhaps they thought ... No less than 11percent of all the people in England and Wales in 1961 had lived in their present usualresidence less than a year ... In certain parts o€ England, in fact, it appears that the migratorymovements are nothing less than frenetic. In Kensington over 25 percent had lived in theirhomes less than a year, in Hampstead 20 percent, in Chelsea 19 percent." And Anne Lapping,in another issue of the same journal, states that "new houseowners expect to move housemany more times than their parents. The average life of a mortgage is eight to nine years ..."This is only slightly different than in the United States. In France, a continuing housing shortage contrives to slow down internal mobility, buteven there a study by demographer Guy Pourcher suggests that each year 8 to 10 percent ofall Frenchmen shift homes. In Sweden, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, the rate ofdomestic migration appears to be on the rise. And Europe is experiencing a wave ofinternational mass migration unlike anything since the disruptions of World War II.Economic prosperity in Northern Europe has created widespread labor shortages (except inEngland) and has attracted masses of unemployed agricultural workers from theMediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. They come by the thousands from Algeria, Spain, Portugal, Yugoslavia and Turkey.Every Friday afternoon 1000 Turkish workers in Istanbul clamber aboard a train headingnorth toward the promised lands. The cavernous rail terminal in Munich has become adebarkation point for many of them, and Munich now has its own Turkish-languagenewspaper. In Cologne, at the huge Ford factory, fully one-quarter of the workers are Turks.Other foreigners have fanned out through Switzerland, France, England, Denmark and as farnorth as Sweden. Not long ago, in the twelfth-century town of Pangbourne in England, mywife and I were served by Spanish waiters. And in Stockholm we visited the Vivel, adowntown restaurant that has become a meeting place for transplanted Spaniards who hungerfor flamenco music with their dinner. There were no Swedes present; with the exception of afew Algerians and ourselves, everyone spoke Spanish. It was no surprise therefore to findthat Swedish sociologists today are torn by debate over whether foreign worker populationsshould be assimilated into Swedish culture or encouraged to retain their own culturaltraditions—precisely the same "melting pot" argument that excited American social scientistsduring the great period of open immigration in the United States. MIGRATION TO THE FUTURE
There are, however, important differences between the kind of people who are on the move inthe United States and those caught up in the European migrations. In Europe most of the newmobility can be attributed to the continuing transition from agriculture to industry; from thepast to the present, as it were. Only a small part is as yet associated with the transition fromindustrialism to super-industrialism. In the United States, by contrast, the continuingredistribution of population is no longer primarily caused by the decline of agriculturalemployment. It grows, instead, out of the spread of automation and the new way of lifeassociated with super-industrial society, the way of life of the future. This becomes plain if we look at who is doing the moving in the United States. It is truethat some technologically backward and disadvantaged groups, such as urban Negroes, arecharacterized by high rates of geographical mobility, usually within the same neighborhoodor county. But these groups form only a relatively small slice of the total population, and itwould be a serious mistake to assume that high rates of geographical mobility correlate onlywith poverty, unemployment or ignorance. In fact, we find that men with at least one year ofcollege education (an ever increasing group) move more, and further, than those without.Thus we find that the professional and technical populations are among the most mobile of allAmericans. And we find an increasing number of affluent executives who move far andfrequently. (It is a house joke among executives of the International Business MachineCorporation that IBM stands for "Ive Been Moved.") In the emerging super-industrialism itis precisely these groups—professional, technical and managerial—who increase in bothabsolute number and as a proportion of the total work force. They also give the society itscharacteristic flavor, as the denim-clad factory worker did in the past. Just as millions of poverty-stricken and unemployed rural workers are flowing from theagricultural past into the industrial present in Europe, so thousands of European scientists,engineers and technicians are flowing into the United States and Canada, the most super-industrial of nations. In West Germany, Professor Rudolf Mossbauer, a Nobel prizewinner inphysics, announces that he is thinking of migrating to America because of disagreementsover administrative and budgetary policies at home. Europes political ministers, worried overthe "technology gap," have looked on helplessly as Westinghouse, Allied Chemical, DouglasAircraft, General Dynamics and other major American corporations sent talent scouts toLondon or Stockholm to lure away everyone from astrophysicists to turbine engineers. But there is a simultaneous "brain-drain" inside the United States, with thousands ofscientists and engineers moving back and forth like particles in an atom. There are, in fact,well recognized patterns of movement. Two major streams, one from the North and the otherfrom the South, both converge in California and the other Pacific Coast states, with a waystation at Denver. Another major stream flows up from the South toward Chicago andCambridge, Princeton and Long Island. A counter-stream carries men back to the space andelectronics industries in Florida. A typical young space engineer of my acquaintance quit his job with RCA at Princetonto go to work for General Electric. The house he had purchased only two years before wassold; his family moved into a rented house just outside Philadelphia, while a new one wasbuilt for them. They will move into this new house—the fourth in about five years—providedhe is not transferred or offered a better job elsewhere. And all the time, California beckons. There is a less obvious geographical pattern to the movement of management men, but,if anything, the turnover is heavier. A decade ago William Whyte, in The Organization Man,declared that "The man who leaves home is not the exception in American society but the keyto it. Almost by definition, the organization man is a man who left home and ... kept ongoing." His characterization, correct then, is even truer today. The Wall Street Journal refersto "corporate gypsies" in an article headlined "How Executive Family Adapts to Incessant
Moving About Country." It describes the life of M. E. Jacobson, an executive with theMontgomery Ward retail chain. He and his wife, both forty-six at the time the story appeared,had moved twenty-eight times in twenty-six years of married life. "I almost feel like werejust camping," his wife tells her visitors. While their case is atypical, thousands like themmove on the average of once every two years, and their numbers multiply. This is true notmerely because corporate needs are constantly shifting, but also because top managementregards frequent relocation of its potential successors as a necessary step in their training. This moving of executives from house to house as if they were life-size chessmen on acontinent-sized board has led one psychologist to propose facetiously a money-saving systemcalled "The Modular Family." Under this scheme, the executive not only leaves his housebehind, but his family as well. The company then finds him a matching family (personalitycharacteristics carefully selected to duplicate those of the wife and children left behind) at thenew site. Some other itinerant executive then "plugs into" the family left behind. No oneappears to have taken the idea seriously—yet. In addition to the large groups of professionals, technicians and executives who engagein a constant round of "musical homes," there are many other peculiarly mobile groupings inthe society. A large military establishment includes tens of thousands of families who,peacetime and wartime, move again and again. "Im not decorating any more houses," snapsthe wife of an army colonel with irony in her voice: "The curtains never fit from one house tothe next and the rug is always the wrong size or color. From now on Im decorating my car."Tens of thousands of skilled construction workers add to the flow. On another level are themore than 750,000 students attending colleges away from their home state, plus the hundredsof thousands more who are away from home but still within their home state. For millions,and particularly for the "people of the future," home is where you find it. SUICIDES AND HITCH-HIKERSSuch tidal movements of human beings produce all sorts of seldom-noticed side effects.Businesses that mail direct to the customers home spend uncounted dollars keeping theiraddress lists up to date. The same is true of telephone companies. Of the 885,000 listings inthe Washington, D. C., telephone book in 1969, over half were different from the year before.Similarly, organizations and associations have a difficult time knowing where their membersare. Within a single recent year fully one-third of the members of the National Society forProgrammed Instruction, an organization of educational researchers, changed their addresses.Even friends have trouble keeping up with each others whereabouts. One can sympathizewith the plaint of poor Count Lanfranco Rasponi, who laments that travel and movementhave destroyed "society." There is no social season any more, he says, because nobody isanywhere at the same time—except, of course, nobodies. The good Count has been quoted assaying: "Before this, if you wanted twenty for dinner, youd have to ask forty—but now youfirst ask 200." Despite such inconveniences, the overthrow of the tyranny of geography opens a formof freedom that proves exhilarating to millions. Speed, movement and even relocation carrypositive connotations for many. This accounts for the psychological attachment thatAmericans and Europeans display toward automobiles—the technological incarnation ofspatial freedom. Motivational researcher Ernest Dichter has unburdened himself of abundantFreudian nonsense in his time, but he is shrewdly insightful when he suggests that the auto isthe "most powerful tool for mastery" available to the ordinary Western man. "The automobilehas become the modern symbol of initiation. The license of the sixteen-year-old is a validadmission to adult society."
In the affluent nations, he writes, "most people have enough to eat and are reasonablywell housed. Having achieved this thousand-year-old dream of humanity, they now reach outfor further satisfactions. They want to travel, discover, be at least physically independent. Theautomobile is the mobile symbol of mobility ..." In fact, the last thing that any family wishesto surrender, when hardpressed by financial hardship, is the automobile, and the worstpunishment an American parent can mete out to a teen-ager is to "ground" him—i.e., deprivehim of the use of an automobile. Young girls in the United States, when asked what they regard as important about aboy, immediately list a car. Sixty-seven percent of those interviewed in a recent survey said acar is "essential," and a nineteen-year-old boy, Alfred Uranga of Albuquerque, N. M.,confirmed gloomily that "If a guy doesnt have a car, he doesnt have a girl." Just how deepthis passion for automobility runs among the youth is tragically illustrated by the suicide of aseventeen-year-old Wisconsin boy, William Nebel, who was "grounded" by his father afterhis drivers license was suspended for speeding. Before putting a .22 caliber rifle bullet in hisbrain, the boy penned a note that ended, "Without a license, I dont have my car, job or sociallife. So I think that it is better to end it all right now." It is clear that millions of young peopleall over the technological world agree with the poet Marinetti who, more than half a centuryago, shouted: "A roaring racing car ... is more beautiful than the Winged Victory." Freedom from fixed social position is linked so closely with freedom from fixedgeographical position, that when super-industrial man feels socially constricted his firstimpulse is to relocate. This idea seldom occurs to the peasant raised in his village or thecoalminer toiling away in the black deeps. "A lot of problems are solved by migration. Go.Travel!" said a student of mine before rushing off to join the Peace Corps. But movementbecomes a positive value in its own right, an assertion of freedom, not merely a response toor escape from outside pressures. A survey of 539 subscribers to Redbook magazine sought todetermine why their addresses had changed in the previous year. Along with such reasons as"family grew too big for old home" or "pleasanter surroundings" fully ten percent checked off"just wanted a change." An extreme manifestation of this urge to move is found among the female hitch-hikerswho are beginning to form a recognizable sociological category of their own. Thus a youngCatholic girl in England gives up her job selling advertising space for a magazine and goesoff with a friend intending to hitchhike to Turkey. In Hamburg the girls split up. The firstgirl, Jackie, cruises the Greek Islands, reaches Istanbul, and at length returns to England,where she takes a job with another magazine. She stays only long enough to finance anothertrip. After that she comes back and works as a waitress, rejecting promotion to hostess ongrounds that "I dont expect to be in England very long." At twenty-three Jackie is aconfirmed hitch-hiker, thumbing her way indefatigably all over Europe with a gas pistol inher rucksack, returning to England for six or eight months, then starting out again. Ruth,twenty-eight, has been living this way for years, her longest stay in any one place havingbeen three years. Hitchhiking as a way of life, she says, is fine because while it is possible tomeet people, "you dont get too involved." Teen-age girls in particular—perhaps eager to escape restrictive home environments—are passionately keen travelers. A survey of girls who read Seventeen, for example, showedthat 40.2 percent took one or more "major" trips during the summer before the survey. Sixty-nine percent of these trips carried the girl outside her home state, and nine percent took herabroad. But the itch to travel begins long before the teen years. Thus when Beth, the daughterof a New York psychiatrist, learned that a friend of hers had visited Europe, her tearfulresponse was: "Im nine years old already and Ive never been to Europe!" This positive attitude toward movement is reflected in survey findings that Americanstend to admire travelers. Thus researchers at the University of Michigan have found that
respondents frequently term travelers "lucky" or "happy." To travel is to gain status, whichexplains why so many American travelers keep ragged airline tags on their luggage or attachécases long after their return from a trip. One wag has suggested that someone set up abusiness washing and ironing old airline tags for status-conscious travelers. Moving ones household, on the other hand, is a cause for commiseration rather thancongratulations. Everyone makes ritual comments about the hardships of moving. Yet thefact is that those who have moved once are much more likely to move again than those whohave never moved. The French sociologist Alain Touraine explains that "having alreadymade one change and being less attached to the community, they are the readier to moveagain ..." And a British trade-union official, R. Clark, not long ago told an internationalmanpower conference that mobility might well be a habit formed in student days. He pointedout that those who spent their college years away from home move in less restricted circlesthan uneducated and more home-bound manual workers. Not only do these college peoplemove more in later life, but he suggested, they pass on to their children attitudes that facilitatemobility. While for many worker families relocation is a dreaded necessity, a consequence ofunemployment or other hardships, for the middle and upper classes moving is most oftenassociated with the extension of the good life. For them, traveling is a joy, and moving outusually means moving up. In short, throughout the nations in transition to super-industrialism, among the peopleof the future, movement is a way of life, a liberation from the constrictions of the past, a stepinto the still more affluent future. THE MOURNFUL MOVERSDramatically different attitudes, however, are evinced by the "immobiles." It is not only theagricultural villager in India or Iran who remains fixed in one place for most or all of his life.The same is true of millions of blue-collar workers, particularly those in backward industries.As technological change roars through the advanced economies, outmoding whole industriesand creating new ones almost overnight, millions of unskilled and semiskilled workers findthemselves compelled to relocate. The economy demands mobility, and most Westerngovernments—notably Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the United States—spend large sumsto encourage workers to retrain for new jobs and leave their homes in pursuit of them. Forcoalminers in Appalachia or textile workers in the French provinces, however, this proves tobe excruciatingly painful. Even for big-city workers uprooted by urban renewal and relocatedquite near to their former homes, the disruption is often agonizing. "It is quite precise to speak of their reactions," says Dr. Marc Fried of the Center forCommunity Studies, Massachusetts General Hospital, "as expressions of grief. These aremanifest in the feelings of painful loss, the continued longing, the general depressive tone,frequent symptoms of psychological or social or somatic distress ... the sense of helplessness,the occasional expressions of both direct and displaced anger, and tendencies to idealize thelost place." The responses, he declares, are "strikingly similar to mourning for a lost person." Sociologist Monique Viot, of the French Ministry of Social Affairs, says: "The Frenchare very attached to their geographical backgrounds. For jobs even thirty or forty kilometersaway they are reluctant—extremely reluctant—to move. The unions call such movesdeportations." Even some educated and affluent movers show signs of distress when they are calledupon to relocate. The author Clifton Fadiman, telling of his move from a restful Connecticuttown to Los Angeles, reports that he was shortly "felled by a shotgun burst of odd physicaland mental ailments ... In the course of six months my illness got straightened out. The
neurologist ... diagnosed my trouble as culture shock ..." For relocation of ones home, evenunder the most favorable circumstances, entails a series of difficult psychologicalreadjustments. In a famous study of a Canadian suburb they call Crestwood Heights, sociologists J. R.Seeley, R. A. Sim, and E. W. Loosley, state: "The rapidity with which the transition has to beaccomplished, and the depth to which change must penetrate the personality are such as tocall for the greatest flexibility of behavior and stability of personality. Ideology, speechsometimes, food habits, and preferences in decor must be made over with relative suddennessand in the absence of unmistakable clues as to the behavior to be adopted." The steps by which people make such adjustments have been mapped out bypsychiatrist James S. Tyhurst of the University of British Columbia. "In field studies ofindividuals following immigration," he says, "a fairly consistent pattern can ... be defined.Initially, the person is concerned with the immediate present, with an attempt to find work,make money, and find shelter. These features are often accompanied by restlessness andincreased psychomotor activity ..." As the persons sense of strangeness or incongruity in the new surroundings grows, asecond phase, "psychological arrival," takes place. "Characteristic of this are increasinganxiety and depression; increasing self-preoccupation, often with somatic preoccupations andsomatic symptoms; general withdrawal from the society in contrast to previous activity; andsome degree of hostility and suspicion. The sense of difference and helplessness becomesincreasingly intense and the period is characterized by marked discomfort and turmoil. Thisperiod of more or less disturbance may last for ... one to several months." Only then does the third phase begin. This takes the form of relative adjustment to thenew surroundings, a settling in, or else, in extreme cases, "the development of more severedisturbances manifested by more intense disorders of mood, the development of abnormalmental content and breaks with reality." Some people, in short, never do adjust adequately. THE HOMING INSTINCTEven when they do, however, they are no longer the same as before, for any relocation, ofnecessity, destroys a complex web-work of old relationships and establishes a set of newones. It is this disruption that, especially if repeated more than once, breeds the "loss ofcommitment" that many writers have noted among the high mobiles. The man on the move isordinarily in too much of a hurry to put down roots in any one place. Thus an airlineexecutive is quoted as saying he avoids involvement in the political life of his communitybecause "in a few years I wont even be living here. You plant a tree and you never see itgrow." This non-involvement or, at best, limited participation, has been sharply criticized bythose who see in it a menace to the traditional ideal of grass-roots democracy. They overlook,however, an important reality: the possibility that those who refuse to involve themselvesdeeply in community affairs may be showing greater moral responsibility than those whodo—and then move away. The movers boost a tax rate—but avoid paying the piper becausethey are no longer there. They help defeat a school bond issue—and leave the children ofothers to suffer the consequences. Does it not make more sense, is it not more responsible, todisqualify oneself in advance? Yet if one does withdraw from participation, refusing to joinorganizations, refusing to establish close ties with neighbors, refusing, in short, to commitoneself, what happens to the community and the self? Can individuals or society survivewithout commitment? Commitment takes many forms. One of these is attachment to place. We canunderstand the significance of mobility only if we first recognize the centrality of fixed place
in the psychological architecture of traditional man. This centrality is reflected in our culturein innumerable ways. Indeed, civilization, itself, began with agriculture—which meantsettlement, an end, at last, to the dreary treks and migrations of the paleolithic nomad. Thevery word "rootedness" to which we pay so much attention today is agricultural in origin. Theprecivilized nomad listening to a discussion of "roots" would scarcely have understood theconcept. The notion of roots is taken to mean a fixed place, a permanently anchored "home." Ina harsh, hungry and dangerous world, home, even when no more than a hovel, came to beregarded as the ultimate retreat, rooted in the earth, handed down from generation togeneration, ones link with both nature and the past. The immobility of home was taken forgranted, and literature overflows with reverent references to the importance of home. "Seekhome for rest, For home is best" are lines from Instructions to Housewifery, a sixteenth-century manual by Thomas Tusser, and there are dozens of what one might, at the risk of aterrible pun, call "home-ilies" embedded in the culture. "A mans home is his castle ...""Theres no place like home ..." "Home, sweet home ..." The syrupy glorification of homereached, perhaps, a climax in nineteenth-century England at precisely the time thatindustrialism was uprooting the rural folk and converting them into urban masses. ThomasHood, the poet of the poor, tells us that "each heart is whispering, Home, Home at last ..." andTennyson paints a classically cloying picture of An English home—gray twilight poured On dewy pastures, dewy trees, Softer than sleep—all things in order stored, A haunt of ancient peace. In a world churned by the industrial revolution, and in which all things were decidedlynot "in order stored," home was the anchorage, the fixed point in the storm. If nothing else, atleast it could be counted upon to stay in one place. Alas, this was poetry, not reality, and itcould not hold back the forces that were to tear man loose from fixed location. THE DEMISE OF GEOGRAPHYThe nomad of the past moved through blizzards and parching heat, always pursued byhunger, but he carried with him his buffalo-hide tent, his family and the rest of his tribe. Hecarried his social setting with him, and, as often as not, the physical structure that he calledhome. In contrast, the new nomads of today leave the physical structure behind. (It becomesan entry in the tables showing the turnover rate for things in their lives.) And they leave allbut their family, the most immediate social setting, behind. The downgrading of theimportance of place, the decline in commitment to it, is expressed in scores of ways. A recentexample was the decision of Ivy League colleges in the United States to de-emphasizegeographical considerations in their admissions policies. These elite colleges traditionallyapplied geographical criteria to applicants, deliberately favoring boys from homes located farfrom their campuses, in the hopes of assembling a highly diversified student body. Betweenthe 1930s and the 1950s, for example, Harvard cut in half the percentage of its students fromhomes in New England and New York. Today, says an official of the university, "Werepulling back on this geographical distribution thing." Place, it is now recognized, is no longer a primary source of diversity. Differencesbetween people no longer correlate closely with geographical background. The address on theapplication form may be purely temporary anyway. Many people no longer stay in one place
long enough to acquire distinctive regional or local characteristics. Says the dean ofadmissions at Yale: "Of course, we still send our recruiting people to out-of-the-way placeslike Nevada, but theres really as much diversity in taking Harlem, Park Avenue and Queens."According to this official, Yale has virtually dropped geography altogether as a considerationin selection. And his counterpart at Princeton reports: "It is not the place theyre from, really,but rather some sense of a different background that were looking for." Mobility has stirred the pot so thoroughly that the important differences between peopleare no longer strongly place-related. So far has the decline in commitment to place gone,according to Prof. John Dyckman of the University of Pennsylvania, that "Allegiance to acity or state is even now weaker for many than allegiance to a corporation, a profession, or avoluntary association." Thus it might be said that commitments are shifting from place-related social structures (city, state, nation or neighborhood) to those (corporation, profession,friendship network) that are themselves mobile, fluid, and, for all practical purposes, place-less. Commitment, however, appears to correlate with duration of relationship. Armed with aculturally conditioned set of durational expectancies, we have all learned to invest withemotional content those relationships that appear to us to be "permanent" or relatively long-lasting, while withholding emotion, as much as possible, from short-term relationships. Thereare, of course, exceptions; the swift summer romance is one. But, in general, across a broadvariety of relationships, the correlation holds. The declining commitment to place is thusrelated not to mobility per se, but to a concomitant of mobility—the shorter duration of placerelationships. In seventy major United States cities, for example, including New York, averageresidence in one place is less than four years. Contrast this with the lifelong residence in oneplace characteristic of the rural villager. Moreover, residential relocation is critical indetermining the duration of many other place relationships, so that when an individualterminates his relationship with a home, he usually also terminates his relationship with allkinds of "satellite" places in the neighborhood. He changes his supermarket, gas station, busstop and barbershop, thus cutting short a series of other place relationships along with thehome relationship. Across the board, therefore, we not only experience more places in thecourse of a lifetime, but, on average, maintain our link with each place for a shorter andshorter interval. Thus we begin to see more clearly how the accelerative thrust in society affects theindividual. For this telescoping of mans relationships with place precisely parallels thetruncation of his relationship with things. In both cases, the individual is forced to make and break his ties more rapidly. In bothcases, the level of transience rises. In both cases, he experiences a quickening of the pace oflife.
Chapter 6 PEOPLE: THE MODULAR MANEach spring an immense lemming-like migration begins all over the Eastern United States.Singly and in groups, burdened with sleeping bags, blankets and bathing suits, some 15,000American college students toss aside their texts and follow a highly accurate homing instinctthat leads them to the sun-bleached shoreline of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. There, forapproximately a week, this teeming, milling mass of sun and sex worshippers swims, sleeps,flirts, guzzles beer, sprawls and brawls in the sands. At the end of this period the bikini-cladgirls and their bronzed admirers pack their kits and join in a mass exodus. Anyone near thebooth set up by the resort city to welcome this rambunctious army can now hear theloudspeaker booming: "Car with two can take rider as far as Atlanta ... Need ride toWashington ... Leaving at 10:00 for Louisville ..." In a few hours nothing is left of the great"beach-and-booze party" except butts and beer cans in the sand, and about $1.5 million in thecash registers of local merchants—who regard this annual invasion as a tainted blessing thatthreatens public sanity while it underwrites private profit. What attracts the young people is more than an irrepressible passion for sunshine. Noris it mere sex, a commodity available in other places as well. Rather, it is a sense of freedomwithout responsibility. In the words of a nineteen-year-old New York co-ed who made herway to the festivities recently: "Youre not worried about what you do or say here because,frankly, youll never see these people again." What the Fort Lauderdale rite supplies is a transient agglomeration of people thatmakes possible a great diversity of temporary interpersonal relationships. And it is preciselythis—temporariness—that increasingly characterizes human relations as we move furthertoward super-industrialism. For just as things and places flow through our lives at a fasterclip, so, too, do people. THE COST OF "INVOLVEMENT"Urbanism—the city dwellers way of life—has preoccupied sociology since the turn of thecentury. Max Weber pointed out the obvious fact that people in cities cannot know all theirneighbors as intimately as it was possible for them to do in small communities. GeorgSimmel carried this idea one step further when he declared, rather quaintly, that if the urbanindividual reacted emotionally to each and every person with whom he came into contact, orcluttered his mind with information about them, he would be "completely atomized internallyand would fall into an unthinkable mental condition." Louis Wirth, in turn, noted the fragmented nature of urban relationships."Characteristically, urbanites meet one another in highly segmental roles ..." he wrote. "Theirdependence upon others is confined to a highly fractionalized aspect of the others round ofactivity." Rather than becoming deeply involved with the total personality of every individualwe meet, he explained, we necessarily maintain superficial and partial contact with some. Weare interested only in the efficiency of the shoe salesman in meeting our needs: we couldntcare less that his wife is an alcoholic. What this means is that we form limited involvement relationships with most of thepeople around us. Consciously or not, we define our relationships with most people infunctional terms. So long as we do not become involved with the shoe salesmans problems at
home, or his more general hopes, dreams and frustrations, he is, for us, fully interchangeablewith any other salesman of equal competence. In effect, we have applied the modularprinciple to human relationships. We have created the disposable person: Modular Man. Rather than entangling ourselves with the whole man, we plug into a module of hispersonality. Each personality can be imagined as a unique configuration of thousands of suchmodules. Thus no whole person is interchangeable with any other. But certain modules are.Since we are seeking only to buy a pair of shoes, and not the friendship, love or hate of thesalesman, it is not necessary for us to tap into or engage with all the other modules that formhis personality. Our relationship is safely limited. There is limited liability on both sides. Therelationship entails certain accepted forms of behavior and communication. Both sidesunderstand, consciously or otherwise, the limitations and laws. Difficulties arise only whenone or another party oversteps the tacitly understood limits, when he attempts to connect upwith some module not relevant to the function at hand. Today a vast sociological and psychological literature is devoted to the alienationpresumed to flow from this fragmentation of relationships. Much of the rhetoric ofexistentialism and the student revolt decries this fragmentation. It is said that we are notsufficiently "involved" with our fellow man. Millions of young people go about seeking"total involvement." Before leaping to the popular conclusion that modularization is all bad, however, itmight be well to look more closely at the matter. Theologian Harvey Cox, echoing Simmel,has pointed out that in an urban environment the attempt to "involve" oneself fully witheveryone can lead only to self-destruction and emotional emptiness. Urban man, he writes,"must have more or less impersonal relationships with most of the people with whom hecomes in contact precisely in order to choose certain friendships to nourish and cultivate ...His life represents a point touched by dozens of systems and hundreds of people. His capacityto know some of them better necessitates his minimizing the depth of his relationship tomany others. Listening to the postman gossip becomes for the urban man an act of sheergraciousness, since he probably has no interest in the people the postman wants to talkabout." Moreover, before lamenting modularization, it is necessary to ask ourselves whether wereally would prefer to return to the traditional condition of man in which each individualpresumably related to the whole personality of a few people rather than to the personalitymodules of many. Traditional man has been so sentimentalized, so cloyingly romanticized,that we frequently overlook the consequences of such a return. The very same writers wholament fragmentation also demand freedom—yet overlook the unfreedom of people boundtogether in totalistic relationships. For any relationship implies mutual demands andexpectations. The more intimately involved a relationship, the greater the pressure the partiesexert on one another to fulfill these expectations. The tighter and more totalistic therelationship, the more modules, so to speak, are brought into play, and the more numerous arethe demands we make. In a modular relationship, the demands are strictly bounded. So long as the shoesalesman performs his rather limited service for us, thereby fulfilling our rather limitedexpectations, we do not insist that he believe in our God, or that he be tidy at home, or shareour political values, or enjoy the same kind of food or music that we do. We leave him free inall other matters—as he leaves us free to be atheist or Jew, heterosexual or homosexual, JohnBircher or Communist. This is not true of the total relationship and cannot be. To a certainpoint, fragmentation and freedom go together. All of us seem to need some totalistic relationships in our lives. But to decry the factthat we cannot have only such relationships is nonsense. And to prefer a society in which theindividual has holistic relationships with a few, rather than modular retionships with many, is
to wish for a return to the imprisonment of the past—a past when individuals may have beenmore tightly bound to one another, but when they were also more tightly regimented bysocial conventions, sexual mores, political and religious restrictions. This is not to say that modular relationships entail no risks or that this is the best of allpossible worlds. There are, in fact, profound risks in the situation, as we shall attempt toshow. Until now, however, the entire public and professional discussion of these issues hasbeen badly out of focus. For it has overlooked a critical dimension of all interpersonalrelationships: their duration. THE DURATION OF HUMAN RELATIONSHIPSSociologists like Wirth have referred in passing to the transitory nature of human ties inurban society. But they have made no systematic effort to relate the shorter duration ofhuman ties to shorter durations in other kinds of relationships. Nor have they attempted todocument the progressive decline in these durations. Until we analyze the temporal characterof human bonds, we will completely misunderstand the move toward super-industrialism. For one thing, the decline in the average duration of human relationships is a likelycorollary of the increase in the number of such relationships. The average urban individualtoday probably comes into contact with more people in a week than the feudal villager did ina year, perhaps even a lifetime. The villagers ties with other people no doubt included sometransient relationships, but most of the people he knew were the same throughout his life. Theurban man may have a core group of people with whom his interactions are sustained overlong periods of time, but he also interacts with hundreds, perhaps thousands of people whomhe may see only once or twice and who then vanish into anonymity. All of us approach human relationships, as we approach other kinds of relationships,with a set of built-in durational expectancies. We expect that certain kinds of relationshipswill endure longer than others. It is, in fact, possible to classify relationships with otherpeople in terms of their expected duration. These vary, of course, from culture to culture andfrom person to person. Nevertheless, throughout wide sectors of the population of theadvanced technological societies something like the following order is typical: Long-duration relationships. We expect ties with our immediate family, and to a lesserextent with other kin, to extend throughout the lifetimes of the people involved. Thisexpectation is by no means always fulfilled, as rising divorce rates and family break-upsindicate. Nevertheless, we still theoretically marry "until death do us part" and the social idealis a lifetime relationship. Whether this is a proper or realistic expectation in a society of hightransience is debatable. The fact remains, however, that family links are expected to be longterm, if not lifelong, and considerable guilt attaches to the person who breaks off such arelationship. Medium-duration relationships. Four classes of relationships fall within this category.Roughly in order of descending durational expectancies, these are relationships with friends,neighbors, job associates, and co-members of churches, clubs and other voluntaryorganizations. Friendships are traditionally supposed to survive almost, if not quite, as long as familyties. The culture places high value on "old friends" and a certain amount of blame attaches todropping a friendship. One type of friendship relationship, however, acquaintanceship, isrecognized as less durable. Neighbor relationships are no longer regarded as long-term commitments—the rate ofgeographical turnover is too high. They are expected to last as long as the individual remains
in a single location, an interval that is growing shorter and shorter on average. Breaking offwith a neighbor may involve other difficulties, but it carries no great burden of guilt. On-the-job relationships frequently overlap friendships, and less often, neighborrelationships. Traditionally, particularly among white-collar, professional and technicalpeople, job relationships were supposed to last a relatively long time. This expectation,however, is also changing rapidly, as we shall see. Co-membership relationships—links with people in church or civic organizations,political parties and the like—sometimes flower into friendship, but until that happens suchindividual associations are regarded as more perishable than either friendships, ties withneighbors or fellow workers. Short-duration relationships. Most, though not all, service relationships fall into thiscategory. These involve sales clerks, delivery people, gas station attendants, milkmen,barbers, hairdressers, etc. The turnover among these is relatively rapid and little or no shameattaches to the person who terminates such a relationship. Exceptions to the service patternsare professionals such as physicians, lawyers and accountants, with whom relationships areexpected to be somewhat more enduring. This categorization is hardly airtight. Most of us can cite some "service" relationshipthat has lasted longer than some friendship, job or neighbor relationship. Moreover, most ofus can cite a number of quite long-lasting relationships in our own lives—perhaps we havebeen going to the same doctor for years or have maintained extremely close ties with acollege friend. Such cases are hardly unusual, but they are relatively few in number in ourlives. They are like long-stemmed flowers towering above a field of grass in which eachblade represents a short-term relationship, a transient contact. It is the very durability of theseties that makes them noticeable. Such exceptions do not invalidate the rule. They do notchange the key fact that, across the board, the average interpersonal relationship in our life isshorter and shorter in duration. THE HURRY-UP WELCOMEContinuing urbanization is merely one of a number of pressures driving us toward greater"temporariness" in our human relationships. Urbanization, as suggested earlier, brings greatmasses of people into close proximity, thereby increasing the actual number of contactsmade. This process is, however, strongly reinforced by the rising geographical mobilitydescribed in the last chapter. Geographical mobility not only speeds up the flow of placesthrough our lives, but the flow of people as well. The increase in travel brings with it a sharp increase in the number of transient, casualrelationships with fellow passengers, with hotel clerks, taxi drivers, airline reservationpeople, with porters, maids, waiters, with colleagues and friends of friends, with customsofficials, travel agents and countless others. The greater the mobility of the individual, thegreater the number of brief, face-to-face encounters, human contacts, each one a relationshipof sorts, fragmentary and, above all, compressed in time. (Such contacts appear natural andunimportant to us. We seldom stop to consider how few of the sixty-six billion human beingswho preceded us on the planet ever experienced this high rate of transience in their humanrelationships.) If travel increases the number of contacts—largely with service people of one sort oranother—residential relocation also steps up the through-put of people in our lives. Movingleads to the termination of relationships in almost all categories. The young submarineengineer who is transferred from his job in the Navy Yard at Mare Island, California, to theinstallation at Newport News, Virginia, takes only his most immediate family with him. He
leaves behind parents and in-laws, neighbors, service and tradespeople, as well as hisassociates on the job, and others. He cuts short his ties. In settling down in the newcommunity, he, his wife and child must initiate a whole cluster of new (and once moretemporary) relationships. Here is how one young wife, a veteran of eleven moves in the past seventeen years,describes the process: "When you live in a neighborhood you watch a series of changes takeplace. One day a new mailman delivers the mail. A few weeks later the girl at the check-outcounter at the supermarket disappears and a new one takes her place. Next thing you know,the mechanic at the gas station is replaced. Meanwhile, a neighbor moves out next door and anew family moves in. These changes are taking place all the time, but they are gradual. Whenyou move, you break all these ties at once, and you have to start all over again. You have tofind a new pediatrician, a new dentist, a new car mechanic who wont cheat you, and you quitall your organizations and start over again." It is the simultaneous rupture of a whole range ofexisting relationships that makes relocation psychologically taxing for many. The more frequently this cycle repeats itself, of course, in the life of the individual, theshorter the duration of the relationships involved. Among significant sectors of the populationthis process is now occurring so rapidly that it is drastically altering traditional notions oftime with respect to human relationships. "At a cocktail party on Frogtown Road the othernight," reads a story in The New York Times, "the talk got around to how long those at theparty had lived in New Canaan. To nobodys surprise, it developed that the couple of longestresidence had been there five years." In slower moving times and places, five yearsconstituted little more than a breaking-in period for a family moved to a new community. Ittook that long to be "accepted." Today the breaking-in-period must be highly compressed intime. Thus we have in many American suburbs a commercial "Welcome Wagon" service thataccelerates the process by introducing newcomers to the chief stores and agencies in thecommunity. A paid Welcome Wagon employee—usually a middle-aged lady—visits thenewcomers, answers questions about the community, and leaves behind brochures and,sometimes, inexpensive gift certificates redeemable at local stores. Since it affects onlyrelationships in the service category and is, actually, little more than a form of advertising,the Welcome Wagons integrative impact is superficial. The process of linking up with new neighbors and friends is, however, often quiteeffectively accelerated by the presence of certain people—usually divorced or single olderwomen—who play the role of informal "integrator" in the community. Such people are foundin many established suburbs and housing developments. Their function has been described byurban sociologist Robert Gutman of Rutgers University, who notes that while the integratorherself is frequently isolated from the mainstream of social life in the community, she derivespleasure from serving as a "bridge" for newcomers. She takes the initiative by inviting themto parties and other gatherings. The newcomers are duly flattered that an "oldtime" resident—in many communities "oldtime" means two years—is willing to invite them. The newcomers,alas, quickly learn that the integrator is herself an "outsider" whereupon, more often than not,they promptly disassociate themselves from her. "Fortunately for the integrator," Gutman says, "by the time he or she managed tointroduce the newcomer to the community and the newcomer in turn had gone on to abandonthe integrator, there were new arrivals in the settlement to whom the integrator could onceagain proffer the hand of friendship." Other people in the community also help speed the process of relationship formation.Thus, in developments, Gutman says, "Respondents reported that the real estate agentsintroduced them to neighbors before they had taken possession. In some cases, wives werecalled on by other wives in the neighborhood, sometimes individually and sometimes in
groups. Neighboring wives, or husbands, encountered each other casually, while outgardening and cleaning up the yard or in tending children. And, of course, there were theusual meetings brought about by the children, who themselves often were the first to establishcontact with the human population of the new environment." Local organizations also play an important part in helping the individual integratequickly into the community. This is more likely to be true among suburban homeowners thanamong housing development residents. Churches, political parties and womens organizationsprovide many of the human relationships that the newcomers seek. According to Gutman,"Sometimes a neighbor would inform the newcomer about the existence of the voluntaryassociation, and might even take the newcomer to his first meeting; but even in these cases itwas up to the migrant himself to find his own primary group within the association." The knowledge that no move is final, that somewhere along the road the nomads willonce more gather up their belongings and migrate, works against the development ofrelationships that are more than modular, and it means that if relationships are to be struck upat all, they had better be whipped into life quickly. If, however, the breaking-in period is compressed in time, the leave-taking—thebreaking-out—is also telescoped. This is particularly true of service relationships which,being unidimensional, can be both initiated and terminated with dispatch. "They come andthey go," says the manager of a suburban food store. "You miss them one day and then youlearn theyve moved to Dallas." "Washington, D. C., retailers seldom have a chance to buildlong, enduring relationships with customers," observes a writer in Business Week. "Differentfaces all the time," says a conductor on the New Haven commuter line. Even babies soon become aware of the transience of human ties. The "nanny" of thepast has given way to the baby-sitter service which sends out a different person each time tomind the children. And the same trend toward time-truncated relationships is reflected in thedemise of the family doctor. The late lamented family doctor, the general practitioner, did nothave the refined narrow expertise of the specialist, but he did, at least, have the advantage ofbeing able to observe the same patient almost from cradle to coffin. Today the patient doesntstay put. Instead of enjoying a long-term relationship with a single physician, he flits backand forth between a variety of specialists, changing these relationships each time he relocatesto a new community. Even within any single relationship, the contacts become shorter andshorter as well. Thus the authors of Crestwood Heights, discussing the interaction of expertsand laymen, refer to "the short duration of any one exposure to each other ... The nature oftheir contact, which is in turn a function of busy, time-pressed lives on both sides, means thatany message must be collapsed into a very brief communiqué, and that there must not be toomany of these ..." The impact that this fragmentation and contraction of patient-doctorrelationships has on health care ought to be more seriously explored. FRIENDSHIPS IN THE FUTUREEach time the family moves, it also tends to slough off a certain number of just plain friendsand acquaintances. Left behind, they are eventually all but forgotten. Separation does not endall relationships. We maintain contact with, perhaps, one or two friends from the old location,and we tend to keep in sporadic touch with relatives. But with each move there is a deadlyattrition. At first there is an eager flurry of letters back and forth. There may be occasionalvisits or telephone calls. But gradually these decrease in frequency. Finally, they stopcoming. Says a typical English suburbanite after leaving London: "You cant forget it[London]. Not with all your family living there and that. We still got friends living inPlumstead and Eltham. We used to go back every weekend. But you cant keep that up."
John Barth has captured the sense of turnover among friendships in a passage from hisnovel The Floating Opera: "Our friends float past; we become involved with them; they floaton, and we must rely on hearsay or lose track of them completely; they float back again, andwe must either renew our friendship—catch up to date—or find that they and we dontcomprehend each other any more." The only fault in this is its unspoken suggestion that thecurrent upon which friendships bob and float is lazy and meandering. The current today ispicking up speed. Friendship increasingly resembles a canoe shooting the rapids of the riverof change. "Pretty soon," says Professor Eli Ginzberg of Columbia University, an expert onmanpower mobility, "were all going to be metropolitan-type people in this country withoutties or commitments to long time friends and neighbors." In a brilliant paper on "Friendshipsin the Future," psychologist Courtney Tall suggests that "Stability based on closerelationships with a few people will be ineffective, due to the high mobility, wide interestrange, and varying capacity for adaptation and change found among the members of a highlyautomated society ... Individuals will develop the ability to form close buddy-typerelationships on the basis of common interests or sub-group affiliations, and to easily leavethese friendships, moving either to another location and joining a similar interest group or toanother interest group within the same location ... Interests will change rapidly ... "This ability to form and then to drop, or lower to the level of acquaintanceship, closerelationships quickly, coupled with increased mobility, will result in any given individualforming many more friendships than is possible for most in the present ... Friendship patternsof the majority in the future will provide for many satisfactions, while substituting manyclose relationships of shorter durability for the few long-term friendships formed in the past." MONDAY-TO-FRIDAY FRIENDSOne reason to believe that the trend toward temporary relationships will continue is theimpact of new technology on occupations. Even if the push toward megalopolis stopped andpeople froze in their geographical tracks, there would still be a sharp increase in the number,and decrease in the duration of relationships as a consequence of job changes. For theintroduction of advanced technology, whether we call it automation or not, is necessarilyaccompanied by drastic changes in the types of skills and personalities required by theeconomy. Specialization increases the number of different occupations. At the same time,technological innovation reduces the life expectancy of any given occupation. "Theemergence and decline of occupations will be so rapid," says economist Norman Anon, anexpert in manpower problems, "that people will always be uncertain in them." The professionof airline flight engineer, he notes, emerged and then began to die out within a brief period offifteen years. A look at the "help wanted" pages of any major newspaper brings home the fact thatnew occupations are increasing at a mind-dazzling rate. Systems analyst, console operator,coder, tape librarian, tape handler, are only a few of those connected with computeroperations. Information retrieval, optical scanning, thin-film technology all require new kindsof expertise, while old occupations lose importance or vanish altogether. When Fortunemagazine in the mid-1960s surveyed 1,003 young executives employed by major Americancorporations, it found that fully one out of three held a job that simply had not existed until hestepped into it. Another large group held positions that had been filled by only one incumbentbefore them. Even when the name of the occupation stays the same, the content of the work isfrequently transformed, and the people filling the jobs change.
Job turnover, however, is not merely a direct consequence of technological change. Italso reflects the mergers and acquisitions that occur as industries everywhere franticallyorganize and reorganize themselves to adapt to the fast-changing environment, to keep upwith myriad shifts in consumer preferences. Many other complex pressures also combine tostir the occupational mix incessantly. Thus a recent survey by the US Department of Laborrevealed that the 71,000,000 persons in the American labor force had held their current jobsan average of 4.2 years. This compared with 4.6 years only three years earlier, a decline induration of nearly 9 percent. "Under conditions prevailing at the beginning of the 1960s," states another LaborDepartment report, "the average twenty-year-old man in the work force could be expected tochange jobs about six or seven times." Thus instead of thinking in terms of a "career" thecitizen of super-industrial society will think in terms of "serial careers." Today, for manpower accounting purposes, men are classified according to theirpresent jobs. A worker is a "machine operator" or a "sales clerk" or a "computerprogrammer." This system, born in a less dynamic period, is no longer adequate, according tomany manpower experts. Efforts are now being made to characterize each worker not merelyin terms of the present job held, but in terms of the particular "trajectory" that his career hasfollowed. Each mans trajectory or career line will differ, but certain types of trajectories willrecur. When asked "What do you do?" the super-industrial man will label himself not interms of his present (transient) job, but in terms of his trajectory type, the overall pattern ofhis work life. Such labels are more appropriate to the super-industrial job market than thestatic descriptions used at present, which take no account of what the individual has done inthe past, or of what he may be qualified to do in the future. The high rate of job turnover now evident in the United States is also increasinglycharacteristic of Western European countries. In England, turnover in manufacturingindustries runs an estimated 30 to 40 percent per year. In France about 20 percent of the totallabor force is involved in job changes each year, and this figure, according to Monique Viot,is on the rise. In Sweden, according to Olof Gustafsson, director of the SwedishManufacturing Association, "we count on an average turnover of 25 to 30 percent per year inthe labor force ... Probably the labor turnover in many places now reaches 35 to 40 percent." Whether or not the statistically measurable rate of job turnover is rising, however,makes little difference, for the measurable changes are only part of the story. The statisticstake no account of changes of job within the same company or plant, or shifts from onedepartment to another. A. K. Rice of the Tavistock Institute in London asserts that "Transfersfrom one department to another would appear to have the effect of the beginning of a newlife within the factory." The overall statistics on job turnover, by failing to take such changesinto account, seriously underestimate the amount of shifting around that is actually takingplace—each shift bringing with it the termination of old, and the initiation of new, humanrelationships. Any change in job entails a certain amount of stress. The individual must strip himselfof old habits, old ways of coping, and learn new ways of doing things. Even when the worktask itself is similar, the environment in which it takes place is different. And just as is thecase with moving to a new community, the newcomer is under pressure to form newrelationships at high speed. Here, too, the process is accelerated by people who play the roleof informal integrator. Here, too, the individual seeks out human relationships by joiningorganizations—usually informal and clique-like, rather than part of the companys table oforganization. Here, too, the knowledge that no job is truly "permanent" means that therelationships formed are conditional, modular and, by most definitions, temporary.
RECRUITS AND DEFECTORSIn our discussion of geographical mobility we found that some individuals and groups aremore mobile than others. With respect to occupational mobility, too, we find that someindividuals or groups make more job changes than others. In a very crude sense, it is fair tosay that people who are geographically mobile are quite likely to be occupationally mobile aswell. Thus we once more find high turnover rates among some of the least affluent, leastskilled groups in society. Exposed to the worst shocks and buffetings of an economy thatdemands educated, increasingly skilled workers, the poor bounce from job to job like apinball between bumpers. They are the last hired and the first fired. Throughout the middle range of education and affluence, we find people who, whilecertainly more mobile than agricultural populations, are nonetheless, relatively stable. Andthen, just as before, we find inordinately high and rising rates of turnover among those groupsmost characteristic of the future—the scientists and engineers, the highly educatedprofessionals and technicians, the executives and managers. Thus a recent study reveals that job turnover rates for scientists and engineers in theresearch and development industry in the United States are approximately twice as high as forthe rest of American industry. The reason is easy to detect. This is precisely the speartip oftechnological change—the point at which the obsolescence of knowledge is most rapid. AtWestinghouse, for example, it is believed that the so-called "half-life" of a graduate engineeris only ten years—meaning that fully one half of what he has learned will be outdated withina decade. High turnover also characterizes the mass communications industries, especiallyadvertising. A recent survey of 450 American advertising men found that 70 percent hadchanged their jobs within the last two years. Reflecting the rapid changes in consumerpreferences, in art and copy styles, and in product lines, the same musical chairs game isplayed in England. There the circulation of personnel from one agency to another hasoccasioned cries of alarm within the industry, and many agencies refuse to list an employeeas a regular until he has served for a full year. But perhaps the most dramatic change has overtaken the ranks of management, oncewell insulated from the jolts of fate that afflicted the less fortunate. "For the first time in ourhistory," says Dr. Harold Leavitt, professor of industrial administration and psychology,"obsolescence seems to be an imminent problem for management because for the first time,the relative advantage of experience over knowledge seems to be rapidly decreasing."Because it takes longer to train for modern management and the training itself becomesobsolete in a decade or so, as it does with engineers, Leavitt suggests that in the future "wemay have to start planning careers that move downward instead of upward through time ...Perhaps a man should reach his peak of responsibility very early in his career and then expectto be moved downward or outward into simpler, more relaxing, kinds of jobs." Whether upward, downward or sideways, the future holds more, not less, turnover injobs. This realization is already reflected in the altered attitudes of those doing the hiring. "Iused to be concerned whenever I saw a résumé with several jobs in it," admits an official ofthe Celanese Corporation. "I would be afraid that the guy was a job-hopper or an opportunist.But Im not concerned anymore. What I want to know is why he made each move. Even fiveor six jobs over twenty years could be a plus ... In fact, if I had two equally qualified men, Idtake the man who moved a couple of times for valid reasons over the man who stayed in thesame place. Why? Id know hes adaptable." The director of executive personnel forInternational Telephone and Telegraph, Dr. Frank McCabe, says: "The more successful youare in attracting the comers, the higher your potential turnover rate is. The comers aremovers."
The rising rate of turnover in the executive job market follows peculiar patterns of itsown. Thus Fortune magazine reports: "The defection of a key executive starts not only asequence of job changes in its own right but usually a series of collateral movements. Whenthe boss moves, he is often flooded by requests from his immediate subordinates who want togo along; if he doesnt take them, they immediately begin to put out other feelers." Nowonder a Stanford Research Institute report on the work environment of the year 1975predicts that: "At upper white-collar levels, a great amount of turbulence and churning aboutis foreseen ... the managerial work environment will be both unsettled and unsettling." Behind all this job jockeying lies not merely the engine of technological innovation, butalso the new affluence, which opens new opportunities and at the same time raisesexpectations for psychological self-fulfillment. "The man who came up thirty years ago,"says the vice president of industrial relations for Philco, a subsidiary of the Ford MotorCompany, "believed in hanging on to any job until he knew where he was going. But mentoday seem to feel theres another job right down the pike." And, for most, there is. Not infrequently the new job involves not merely a new employer, a new location, anda new set of work associates, but a whole new way of life. Thus the "serial career" pattern isevidenced by the growing number of people who, once assured of reasonable comfort by theaffluent economy, decide to make a full 180-degree turn in their career line at a time of lifewhen others merely look forward to retirement. We learn of a real estate lawyer who leaveshis firm to study social science. An advertising agency copy supervisor, after twenty-fiveyears on Madison Avenue, concludes that "The phony glamour became stale and boring. Isimply had to get away from it." She becomes a librarian. A sales executive in Long Islandand an engineer in Illinois leave their jobs to become manual-training teachers. A top interiordecorator goes back to school and takes a job with the poverty program. RENT-A-PERSONEach job change implies a step-up of the rate at which people pass through our lives, and asthe rate of turnover increases, the duration of relationships declines. This is strikinglymanifest in the rise to prominence of temporary help services—the human equivalent of therental revolution. In the United States today nearly one out of every 100 workers is at sometime during the year employed by a so-called "temporary help service" which, in turn, rentshim or her out to industry to fill temporary needs. Today some 500 temporary help agencies provide industry with an estimated 750,000short-term workers ranging from secretaries and receptionists, to defense engineers. Whenthe Lycoming Division of Avco Corporation needed 150 design engineers for hurry-upgovernment contracts, it obtained them from a number of rental services. Instead of takingmonths to recruit them, it was able to assemble a complete staff in short order. Temporaryemployees have been used in political campaigns to man telephones and mimeographmachines. They have been called in for emergency duty in printing plants, hospitals andfactories. They have been used in public relations activities. (In Orlando, Florida, temporarieswere hired to give away dollar bills at a shopping center in an attempt to win publicity for thecenter.) More prosaically, tens of thousands of them fill routine office-work assignments tohelp the regular staff of large companies through peak-load periods. And one rental company,the Arthur Treacher Service System, advertises that it will rent maids, chauffeurs, butlers,cooks, handymen, babysitters, practical nurses, plumbers, electricians and other home servicepeople. "Like Hertz and Avis rent cars" it adds. The rental of temporary employees for temporary needs is, like the rental of physicalobjects, spreading all over the industrialized world. Manpower, Incorporated, the largest of
the temporary help services, opened its operation in France in 1956. Since then it has doubledin size each year, and there are now some 250 such agencies in France. Those employed by temporary help services express a variety of reasons for preferringthis type of work. Says Hoke Hargett, an electromechanical engineer, "Every job Im on is acrash job, and when the pressure is immense, I work better." In eight years, he has served ineleven different companies, meeting and then leaving behind hundreds of coworkers. Forsome skilled personnel organized jobhopping actually provides more job security than isavailable to supposedly permanent employees in highly volatile industries. In the defenseindustries sudden cut-backs and layoffs are so common, that the "permanent" employee islikely to find himself thrown on the street without much warning. The temporary helpengineer simply moves off to another assignment when his project is completed. More important for most temporary help workers is the fact that they can call their ownturns. They can work very much when and where they wish. And for some it is a consciousway to broaden their circle of social contacts. One young mother, forced to move to a newcity when her husband was transferred, found herself lonely during the long hours when hertwo children were away at school. Signing up with a temporary help service, she has workedeight or nine months a year since then and, by shifting from one company to another, hasmade contact with a large number of people from among whom she could select a few asfriends. HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS ...Rising rates of occupational turnover and the spread of rentalism into employmentrelationships will further increase the tempo at which human relationships are formed andforgotten. This speedup, however, affects different groups in society in different ways. Thus,in general, working-class individuals tend to live closer to, and depend more on their relativesthan do middle- and upper-class groups. In the words of psychiatrist Leonard Duhl, "Theirties of kinship mean more to them, and with less money available distance is more of ahandicap." Working-class people are generally less adept at the business of coping withtemporary relationships. They take longer to establish ties and are more reluctant to let themgo. Not surprisingly, this is reflected in a greater reluctance to move or change jobs. They gowhen they have to, but seldom from choice. In contrast, psychiatrist Duhl points out, "The professional, academic and upper-managerial class [in the United States] is bound by interest ties across wide physical spacesand indeed can be said to have more functional relationships. Mobile individuals, easilyduplicable relationships, and ties to interest problems depict this group." What is involved in increasing the through-put of people in ones life are the abilitiesnot only to make ties but to break them, not only to affiliate but to disaffiliate. Those whoseem most capable of this adaptive skill are also among the most richly rewarded in society.Seymour Lipset and Reinhard Bendix in Social Mobility in Industrial Society declare that"the socially mobile among business leaders show an unusual capacity to break away fromthose who are liabilities and form relationships with those who can help them." They support the findings of sociologist Lloyd Warner who suggests that "The mostimportant component of the personalities of successful corporate managers and owners isthat, their deep emotional identifications with their families of birth being dissolved, they nolonger are closely intermeshed with the past, and, therefore, are capable of relatingthemselves easily to the present and future. They are people who have literally and spirituallyleft home ... They can relate and disrelate themselves to others easily."
And again, in Big Business Leaders in America, a study he conducted with JamesAbegglen, Warner writes: "Before all, these are men on the move. They left their homes, andall that this implies. They have left behind a standard of living, level of income, and style oflife to adopt a way of living entirely different from that into which they were born. Themobile man first of all leaves the physical setting of his birth. This includes the house helived in, the neighborhood he knew, and in many cases even the city, state and region inwhich he was born. "This physical departure is only a small part of the total process of leaving that themobile man must undergo. He must leave behind people as well as places. The friends ofearlier years must be left, for acquaintances of the lower-status past are incompatible with thesuccessful present. Often the church of his birth is left, along with the clubs and cliques of hisfamily and of his youth. But most important of all, and this is the great problem of the man onthe move, he must, to some degree, leave his father, mother, brothers, and sisters, along withthe other human relationships of his past." This so, it is not so startling to read in a business magazine a cooly detached guide forthe newly promoted executive and his wife. It advises that he break with old friends andsubordinates gradually, in order to minimize resentment. He is told to "find logical excusesfor not joining the group at coffee breaks or lunch." Similarly, "Miss the department bowlingor card sessions, occasionally at first, then more frequently." Invitations to the home of asubordinate may be accepted, but not reciprocated, except in the form of an invitation to awhole group of subordinates at once. After a while all such interaction should cease. Wives are a special problem, we are informed, because they "dont understand theprotocol of office organization." The successful man is advised to be patient with his wife,who may adhere to old relationships longer than he does. But, as one executive puts it, "awife can be downright dangerous if she insists on keeping close friendships with the wives ofher husbands subordinates. Her friendships will rub off on him, color his judgment about thepeople under him, jeopardize his job." Moreover, one personnel man points out, "Whenparents drift away from former friends, kids go too." HOW MANY FRIENDS?These matter-of-fact instructions on how to dis-relate send a chill down the spine of thoseraised on the traditional notion that friendships are for the long haul. But before accusing thebusiness world of undue ruthlessness, it is important to recognize that precisely this pattern isemployed, often beneath a veil of hypocritical regrets, in other strata of society as well. Theprofessor who is promoted to dean, the military officer, the engineer who becomes a projectleader, frequently play the same social game. Moreover, it is predictable that something likethis pattern will soon extend far beyond the world of work and formal organization. For iffriendship is based on shared interests or aptitudes, friendship relationships are bound tochange when interests change—even when distinctions of social class are not involved. Andin a society caught in the throes of the most rapid change in history, it would be astonishing ifthe interests of individuals did not also change kaleidoscopically. Indeed, much of the social activity of individuals today can be described as searchbehavior—a relentless process of social discovery in which one seeks out new friends toreplace those who are either no longer present or who no longer share the same interests. Thisturnover impels people, and especially educated people, toward cities and into temporaryemployment patterns. For the identification of people who share the same interests andaptitudes on the basis of which friendship may blossom is no simple procedure in a society inwhich specialization grows apace. The increase in specialization is present not merely in
professional and work spheres, but even in leisure time pursuits. Seldom has any societyoffered so wide a range of acceptable and readily available leisure time activities. The greaterthe diversity available in both work and leisure, the greater the specialization, and the moredifficult it is to find just the right friends. Thus it has been estimated by Professor Sargant Florence in Britain that a minimumpopulation of 1,000,000 is needed to provide a professional worker today with twentyinteresting friends. The woman who sought temporary work as a strategy for finding friendswas highly intelligent. By increasing the number of different people with whom she wasthrown into work contact, she increased the mathematical probability of finding a few whoshare her interests and aptitudes. We select our friends out of a very large pool of acquaintanceships. A study by MichaelGurevitch at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology asked a varied group to keep track ofall the different people with whom they came in contact in a one hundred-day period. Onaverage, each one listed some 500 names. Social psychologist Stanley Milgram, who hasconducted a number of fascinating experiments dealing with communication throughacquaintanceship networks, speaks of each American having a pool of acquaintanceshipsranging from 500 to 2,500. Actually, however, most people have far fewer friends than the twenty suggested byProfessor Florence, and perhaps his definition was less restrictive than that employed ineveryday use. A study of thirty-nine married middle-class couples in Lincoln, Nebraska,asked them to list their friends. The purpose was to determine whether husbands or wives aremore influential in selecting friends for the family. The study showed that the average couplelisted approximately seven "friendship units"—such a unit being either an individual or amarried couple. This suggests that the number of individuals listed as friends by the averagecouple ranged from seven to fourteen. Of these, a considerable number were non-local, andthe fact that wives seemed to list more non-local friends than their husbands suggests thatthey are less willing than their husbands to slough off a friendship after a move. Men, inshort, seem to be more skilled at breaking off relationships than women. TRAINING CHILDREN FOR TURNOVERToday, however, training for disaffiliation or disrelating begins early. Indeed, this may wellrepresent one of the major differences between the generations. For school children today areexposed to extremely high rates of turnover in their classrooms. According to the EducationalFacilities Laboratories, Incorporated, an off-shoot of the Ford Foundation, "It is not unusualfor city schools to have a turnover of more than half their student body in one school year."This phenomenal rate cannot but have some effect on the children. William Whyte in The Organization Man pointed out that the impact of such mobility"is as severe on the teachers as on the children themselves, for the teachers are therebyrobbed of a good bit of the feeling of achievement they get from watching the childrendevelop." Today, however, the problem is compounded by the high rate of turnover amongteachers too. This is true not only in the United States but elsewhere as well. Thus a report onEngland asserts: "Today it is not uncommon, even in grammar schools, for a child to betaught one subject by two or three different teachers in the course of one year. With teacherloyalty to the school so low, the loyalty of children cannot be summoned either. If a highproportion of teachers are preparing to move on to a better job, a better district, there will beless care, concern and commitment on their part." We can only speculate about the overallinfluence of this on the lives of the children.
A recent study of high school students by Harry R. Moore of the University of Denverindicated that the test scores of children who had moved across state or county lines from oneto ten times were not substantially different from those of children who had not. But therewas a definite tendency for the more nomadic children to avoid participation in the voluntaryside of school life—clubs, sports, student government and other extra-curricular activities. Itis as though they wished, where possible, to avoid new human ties that might only have to bebroken again before long—as if they wished, in short, to slow down the flow-through ofpeople in their lives. How fast should children—or adults for that matter—be expected to make and breakhuman relationships? Perhaps there is some optimum rate that we exceed at our peril?Nobody knows. However, if to this picture of declining durations we add the factor ofdiversity—the recognition that each new human relationship requires a different pattern ofbehavior from us—one thing becomes starkly clear: to be able to make these increasinglynumerous and rapid on-off clicks in our interpersonal lives we must be able to operate at alevel of adaptability never before asked of human beings. Combine this with the accelerated through-put of places and things, as well as people,and we begin to glimpse the complexity of the coping behavior that we demand of peopletoday. Certainly, the logical end of the direction in which we are now traveling is a societybased on a system of temporary encounters, and a distinctly new morality founded on thebelief, so succinctly expressed by the co-ed in Fort Lauderdale, that "frankly, youll never seethese people again." It would be absurd to assume that the future holds nothing more than astraight-line projection of present trends, that we must necessarily reach that ultimate degreeof transience in human relations. But it is not absurd to recognize the direction in which weare moving. Until now most of us have operated on the assumption that temporary relationships aresuperficial relationships, that only long-enduring ties can flower into real interpersonalinvolvement. Perhaps this assumption is false. Perhaps it is possible for holistic, non-modularrelationships, to flower rapidly in a high transience society. It may prove possible toaccelerate the formation of relationships, and to speed up the process of "involvement" aswell. In the meantime, however, a haunting question remains: "Is Fort Lauderdale the future?" We have so far seen that with respect to all three of the tangible components ofsituations—people, places and things—the rate of turnover is rising. It is time now to look atthose intangibles that are equally important in shaping experience, the information we useand the organizational frameworks within which we live.
Chapter 7 ORGANIZATIONS: THE COMING AD-HOCRACYOne of the most persistent myths about the future envisions man as a helpless cog in somevast organizational machine. In this nightmarish projection, each man is frozen into a narrow,unchanging niche in a rabbit-warren bureaucracy. The walls of this niche squeeze theindividuality out of him, smash his personality, and compel him, in effect, to conform or die.Since organizations appear to be growing larger and more powerful all the time, the future,according to this view, threatens to turn us all into that most contemptible of creatures,spineless and faceless, the organization man. It is difficult to overestimate the force with which this pessimistic prophecy grips thepopular mind, especially among young people. Hammered into their heads by a stream ofmovies, plays and books, fed by a prestigious line of authors from Kafka and Orwell toWhyte, Marcuse and Ellul, the fear of bureaucracy permeates their thought. In the UnitedStates everyone "knows" that it is just such faceless bureaucrats who invent all-digittelephone numbers, who send out cards marked "do not fold, spindle or mutilate," whoruthlessly dehumanize students, and whom you cannot fight at City Hall. The fear of beingswallowed up by this mechanized beast drives executives to orgies of self-examination andstudents to paroxysms of protest. What makes the entire subject so emotional is the fact that organization is aninescapable part of all our lives. Like his links with things, places and people, mansorganizational relationships are basic situational components. Just as every act in a mans lifeoccurs in some definite geographical place, so does it also occur in an organizational place, aparticular location in the invisible geography of human organization. Thus, if the orthodox social critics are correct in predicting a regimented, super-bureaucratized future, we should already be mounting the barricades, punching random holesin our IBM cards, taking every opportunity to wreck the machinery of organization. If,however, we set our conceptual clichés aside and turn instead to the facts, we discover thatbureaucracy, the very system that is supposed to crush us all under its weight, is itselfgroaning with change. The kinds of organizations these critics project unthinkingly into the future areprecisely those least likely to dominate tomorrow. For we are witnessing not the triumph, butthe breakdown of bureaucracy. We are, in fact, witnessing the arrival of a new organizationalsystem that will increasingly challenge, and ultimately supplant bureaucracy. This is theorganization of the future. I call it "Ad-hocracy." Man will encounter plenty of difficulty in adapting to this new style organization. Butinstead of being trapped in some unchanging, personality-smashing niche, man will findhimself liberated, a stranger in a new free-form world of kinetic organizations. In this alienlandscape, his position will be constantly changing, fluid, and varied. And his organizationalties, like his ties with things, places and people, will turn over at a frenetic and ever-accelerating rate. CATHOLICS, CLIQUES AND COFFEE BREAKSBefore we can grasp the meaning of this odd term, Ad-hocracy, we need to recognize that notall organizations are bureaucracies. There are alternative ways of organizing people.
Bureaucracy, as Max Weber pointed out, did not become the dominant mode of humanorganization in the West until the arrival of industrialism. This is not the place for a detailed description of all the characteristics of bureaucracy,but it is important for us to note three basic facts. First, in this particular system oforganization, the individual has traditionally occupied a sharply defined slot in a division oflabor. Second, he fit into a vertical hierarchy, a chain of command running from the bossdown to the lowliest menial. Third, his organizational relationships, as Weber emphasized,tended toward permanence. Each individual, therefore, filled a precisely positioned slot, a fixed position in a moreor less fixed environment. He knew exactly where his department ended and the next began;the lines between organizations and their sub-structures were anchored firmly in place. Injoining an organization, the individual accepted a set of fixed obligations in return for aspecified set of rewards. These obligations and rewards remained the same over relativelylong spans of time. The individual thus stepped into a comparatively permanent web ofrelationships—not merely with other people (who also tended to remain in their slots for along time)—but with the organizational framework, the structure, itself. Some of these structures are more durable than others. The Catholic Church is a steelframe that has lasted for 2000 years, with some of its internal sub-structures virtuallyunchanged for centuries at a time. In contrast, the Nazi Party of Germany managed to batheEurope in blood, yet it existed as a formal organization for less than a quarter of a century. In turn, just as organizations endure for longer or shorter periods, so, too, does anindividuals relationship with any specific organizational structure. Thus mans tie to aparticular department, division, political party, regiment, club, or other such unit has abeginning and an end in time. The same is true of his membership in informalorganizations—cliques, factions, coffee-break groups and the like. His tie begins when heassumes the obligations of membership by joining or being conscripted into an organization.His tie ends when he quits or is discharged from it—or when the organization, itself, ceasesto be. This is what happens, of course, when an organization disbands formally. It happenswhen the members simply lose interest and stop coming around. But the organization can"cease to be" in another sense, too. An organization, after all, is nothing more than acollection of human objectives, expectations, and obligations. It is, in other words, a structureof roles filled by humans. And when a reorganization sharply alters this structure byredefining or redistributing these roles, we can say that the old organization has died and anew one has sprung up to take its place. This is true even if it retains the old name and has thesame members as before. The rearrangement of roles creates a new structure exactly as therearrangement of mobile walls in a building converts it into a new structure. A relationship between a person and an organization, therefore, is broken either by hisdeparture from it, or by its dissolution, or by its transformation through reorganization. Whenthe latter—reorganization—happens, the individual, in effect, severs his links with the old,familiar, but now no longer extant structure, and assumes a relationship to the new one thatsupersedes it. Today there is mounting evidence that the duration of mans organizationalrelationships is shrinking, that these relationships are turning over at a faster and faster rate.And we shall see that several powerful forces, including this seemingly simple fact, doombureaucracy to destruction. THE ORGANIZATIONAL UPHEAVAL
There was a time when a table of organization—sometimes familiarly known as a "T/O"—showed a neatly arrayed series of boxes, each indicating an officer and the organizationalsub-units for which he was responsible. Every bureaucracy of any size, whether acorporation, a university or a government agency, had its own T/O, providing its managerswith a detailed map of the organizational geography. Once drawn, such a map became a fixedpart of the organizations rule book, remaining in use for years at a time. Today,organizational lines are changing so frequently that a three-month-old table is often regardedas an historic artifact, something like the Dead Sea Scrolls. Organizations now change their internal shape with a frequency—and sometime arashness—that makes the head swim. Titles change from week to week. Jobs are transformed.Responsibilities shift. Vast organizational structures are taken apart, bolted together again innew forms, then rearranged again. Departments and divisions spring up overnight only tovanish in another, and yet another, reorganization. In part, this frenzied reshuffling arises from the tide of mergers and "de-mergers" nowsweeping through industry in the United States and Western Europe. The late sixties saw atremendous rolling wave of acquisitions, the growth of giant conglomerates and diversifiedcorporate monsters. The seventies may witness an equally powerful wave of divestitures and,later, reacquisitions, as companies attempt to consolidate and digest their new subsidiaries,then trade off troublesome components. Between 1967 and 1969 the Questor Corporation(formerly Dunhill International, Incorporated) bought eight companies and sold off five.Scores of other corporations have similar stories to tell. According to management consultantAlan J. Zakon, "there will be a great deal more spinning off of pieces." As the consumermarketplace churns and changes, companies will be forced constantly to repositionthemselves in it. Internal reorganizations almost inevitably follow such corporate swaps, but they mayarise for a variety of other reasons as well. Within a recent three-year period fully sixty-six ofthe 100 largest industrial companies in the United States publicly reported majororganizational shake-ups. Actually, this was only the visible tip of the proverbial iceberg.Many more reorganizations occur than are ever reported. Most companies try to avoidpublicity when overhauling their organization. Moreover, constant small and partialreorganizations occur at the departmental or divisional level or below, and are regarded as toosmall or unimportant to report. "My own observation as a consultant," says D. R. Daniel, an official of McKinsey &Company, a large management consulting firm, "is that one major restructuring every twoyears is probably a conservative estimate of the current rate of organizational change amongthe largest industrial corporations. Our firm has conducted over 200 organization studies fordomestic corporate clients in the past year, and organization problems are an even larger partof our practice outside the United States." Whats more, he adds, there are no signs of aleveling off. If anything, the frequency of organizational upheavals is increasing. These changes, moreover, are increasingly far-reaching in power and scope. SaysProfessor L. E. Greiner of the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration:"Whereas only a few years ago the target of organization change was limited to a small workgroup or a single department ... the focus is now converging on the organization as a whole,reaching out to include many divisions and levels at once, and even the top managersthemselves." He refers to "revolutionary attempts" to transform organization "at all levels ofmanagement." If the once-fixed table of organization wont hold still in industry, much the same isincreasingly true of the great government agencies as well. There is scarcely an importantdepartment or ministry in the governments of the technological nations that has notundergone successive organizational change in recent years. In the United States during the
forty-year span from 1913 to 1953, despite depression, war and other social upheavals, not asingle new cabinet-level department was added to the government. Yet in 1953 Congresscreated the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. In 1965 it established theDepartment of Housing and Urban Development. In 1967 it set up the Department ofTransportation (thus consolidating activities formerly carried out in thirty different agencies,)and, at about the same time, the President called for a merger of the departments of Labor andCommerce. Such changes within the structure of government are only the most conspicuous, fororganizational tremors are similarly felt in all the agencies down below. Indeed, internalredesign has become a byword in Washington. In 1965 when John Gardner became Secretaryof Health, Education and Welfare, a top-to-bottom reorganization shook that department.Agencies, bureaus and offices were realigned at a rate that left veteran employees in a state ofmental exhaustion. (During the height of this reshuffling, one official, who happens to be afriend of mine, used to leave a note behind for her husband each morning when she left forwork. The note consisted of her telephone number for that day. So rapid were the changesthat she could not keep a telephone number long enough for it to be listed in the departmentaldirectory.) Mr. Gardners successors continued tinkering with organization, and by 1969,Robert Finch, after eleven months in office, was pressing for yet another major overhaul,having concluded in the meantime that the department was virtually unmanageable in theform in which he found it. In Self-Renewal, an influential little book written before he entered the government,Gardner asserted that: "The farsighted administrator ... reorganizes to break down calcifiedorganizational lines. He shifts personnel ... He redefines jobs to break them out of rigidcategories." Elsewhere Gardner referred to the "crises of organization" in government andsuggested that, in both the public and private sectors, "Most organizations have a structurethat was designed to solve problems that no longer exist." The "self-renewing" organization,he defined as one that constantly changes its structure in response to changing needs. Gardners message amounts to a call for permanent revolution in organizational life,and more and more sophisticated managers are recognizing that in a world of acceleratingchange reorganization is, and must be, an on-going process, rather than a traumatic once-in-a-lifetime affair. This recognition is spreading outside the corporations and governmentagencies as well. Thus The New York Times, on the same day that it reports on proposedmergers in the plastics, plywood and paper industries, describes a major administrativeupheaval at the British Broadcasting Corporation, a thorough renovation of the structure ofColumbia University, and even a complete reorganization of that most conservative ofinstitutions, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. What is involved in all thisactivity is not a casual tendency but a historic movement. Organizational change—self-renewal, as Gardner puts it—is a necessary, an unavoidable response to the acceleration ofchange. For the individual within these organizations, change creates a wholly new climate anda new set of problems. The turnover of organizational designs means that the individualsrelationship to any one structure (with its implied set of obligations and rewards) is truncated,shortened in time. With each change, he must reorient himself. Today the average individualis frequently reassigned, shuffled about from one sub-structure to another. But even if heremains in the same department, he often finds that the department, itself, has been shifted onsome fast-changing table of organization, so that his position in the overall maze is no longerthe same. The result is that mans organizational relationships today tend to change at a fasterpace than ever before. The average relationship is less permanent, more temporary, than everbefore.
THE NEW AD-HOCRACYThe high rate of turnover is most dramatically symbolized by the rapid rise of whatexecutives call "project" or "task-force" management. Here teams are assembled to solvespecific short-term problems. Then, exactly like the mobile playgrounds, they aredisassembled and their human components reassigned. Sometimes these teams are throwntogether to serve only for a few days. Sometimes they are intended to last a few years. Butunlike the functional departments or divisions of a traditional bureaucratic organization,which are presumed to be permanent, the project or task-force team is temporary by design. When Lockheed Aircraft Corporation won a controversial contract to build fifty-eightgiant C-5A military air transports, it created a whole new 11,000-man organizationspecifically for that purpose. To complete the multi-billion-dollar job, Lockheed had tocoordinate the work not only of its own people, but of hundreds of subcontracting firms. Inall, 6000 companies are involved in producing the more than 120,000 parts needed for eachof these enormous airplanes. The Lockheed project organization created for this purpose hasits own management and its own complex internal structure. The first of the C-5As rolled out of the shop exactly on schedule in March, 1969,twenty-nine months after award of the contract. The last of the fifty-eight transports was dueto be delivered two years later. This meant that the entire imposing organization created forthis job had a planned life span of five years. What we see here is nothing less than thecreation of a disposable division—the organizational equivalent of paper dresses or throw-away tissues. Project organization is widespread in the aerospace industries. When a leadingmanufacturer set out to win a certain large contract from the National Aeronautics and SpaceAgency, it assembled a team of approximately one hundred people borrowed from variousfunctional divisions of the company. The project team worked for about a year and a half togather data and analyze the job even before the government formally requested bids. Whenthe time came to prepare a formal bid—a "proposal," as it is known in the industry—the "pre-proposal project team" was dissolved and its members sent back to their functional divisions.A new team was brought into being to write the actual proposal. Proposal-writing teams often work together for a few weeks. Once the proposal issubmitted, however, the proposal team is also disbanded. When the contract is won (if it is),new teams are successively established for development, and, ultimately, production of thegoods required. Some individuals may move along with the job, joining each successiveproject team. Typically, however, people are brought in to work on only one or a few stagesof the job. While this form of organization is widely identified with aerospace companies, it isincreasingly employed in more traditional industries as well. It is used when the task to beaccomplished is non-routine, when it is, in effect, a one-time proposition. "In just a few years," says Business Week, "the project manager has becomecommonplace." Indeed, project management has, itself, become recognized as a specializedexecutive art, and there is a small, but growing band of managers, both in the United Statesand Europe, who move from project to project, company to company, never settling down torun routine or long-term operations. Books on project and task-force management arebeginning to appear. And the United States Air Force Systems Command at Dayton, Ohio,runs a school to train executives for project management. Task forces and other ad hoc groups are now proliferating throughout the governmentand business bureaucracies, both in the United States and abroad. Transient teams, whose
members come together to solve a specific problem and then separate, are particularlycharacteristic of science and help account for the kinetic quality of the scientific community.Its members are constantly on the move, organizationally, if not geographically. George Kozmetsky, co-founder of Teledyne, Incorporated, and now dean of the schoolof business at the University of Texas, distinguishes between "routine" and "non-routine"organizations. The latter grapple most frequently with one-of-a-kind problems. He citesstatistics to show that the non-routine sector, in which he brackets government and many ofthe advanced technology companies, is growing so fast that it will employ 65 percent of thetotal United States work force by the year 2001. Organizations in this sector are precisely theones that rely most heavily on transient teams and task forces. Clearly, there is nothing new about the idea of assembling a group to work toward thesolution of a specific problem, then dismantling it when the task is completed. What is new isthe frequency with which organizations must resort to such temporary arrangements. Theseemingly permanent structures of many large organizations, often because they resistchange, are now heavily infiltrated with these transient cells. On the surface, the rise of temporary organization may seem insignificant. Yet thismode of operation plays havoc with the traditional conception of organization as consistingof more or less permanent structures. Throw-away organizations, ad hoc teams orcommittees, do not necessarily replace permanent functional structures, but they change thembeyond recognition, draining them of both people and power. Today while functionaldivisions continue to exist, more and more project teams, task forces and similarorganizational structures spring up in their midst, then disappear. And people, instead offilling fixed slots in the functional organization, move back and forth at a high rate of speed.They often retain their functional "home base" but are detached repeatedly to serve astemporary team members. We shall shortly see that this process, repeated often enough, alters the loyalties of thepeople involved; shakes up lines of authority; and accelerates the rate at which individuals areforced to adapt to organizational change. For the moment, however, it is important torecognize that the rise of ad hoc organization is a direct effect of the speed-up of change insociety as a whole. So long as a society is relatively stable and unchanging, the problems it presents to mentend to be routine and predictable. Organizations in such an environment can be relativelypermanent. But when change is accelerated, more and more novel first-time problems arise,and traditional forms of organization prove inadequate to the new conditions. They can nolonger cope. As long as this is so, says Dr. Donald A. Schon, president of the Organizationfor Social and Technical Innovation, we need to create "self-destroying organizations ... lotsof autonomous, semi-attached units which can be spun off, destroyed, sold bye-bye, when theneed for them has disappeared." Traditional functional organization structures, created to meet predictable, non-novelconditions, prove incapable of responding effectively to radical changes in the environment.Thus temporary role structures are created as the whole organization struggles to preserveitself and keep growing. The process is exactly analogous to the trend toward modularism inarchitecture. We earlier defined modularism as the attempt to lend greater durability to awhole structure by shortening the life span of its components. This applies to organization aswell, and it helps explain the rise of shortlived or throw-away, organization components. As acceleration continues, organizational redesign becomes a continuing function.According to management consultant Bernard Muller-Thym, the new technology, combinedwith advanced management techniques, creates a totally new situation. "What is now withinour grasp," he says, "is a kind of productive capability that is alive with intelligence, alivewith information, so that at its maximum it is completely flexible; one could completely
reorganize the plant from hour to hour if one wished to do so." And what is true of the plantis increasingly true of the organization as a whole. In short, the organizational geography of super-industrial society can be expected tobecome increasingly kinetic, filled with turbulence and change. The more rapidly theenvironment changes, the shorter the life span of organization forms. In administrativestructure, just as in architectural structure, we are moving from long-enduring to temporaryforms, from permanence to transience. We are moving from bureaucracy to Ad-hocracy. In this way, the accelerative thrust translates itself into organization. Permanence, oneof the identifying characteristics of bureaucracy, is undermined, and we are driven to arelentless conclusion: mans ties with the invisible geography of organization turn over moreand more rapidly, exactly as do his relationships with things, places, and the human beingswho people these ever-changing organizational structures. Just as the new nomads migratefrom place to place, man increasingly migrates from organizational structure toorganizational structure. THE COLLAPSE OF HIERARCHYSomething else is happening, too: a revolutionary shift in power relationships. Not only arelarge organizations forced both to change their internal structure and to create temporaryunits, but they are also finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their traditional chains-of-command. It would be pollyannish to suggest that workers in industry or government today truly"participate" in the management of their enterprises—either in capitalist or, for that matter, insocialist and communist countries. Yet there is evidence that bureaucratic hierarchies,separating those who "make decisions" from those who merely carry them out, are beingaltered, side-stepped or broken. This process is noticeable in industry where, according to Professor William H. Read ofthe Graduate School of Business at McGill University, "irresistible pressures" are batteringhierarchical arrangements. "The central, crucial and important business of organizations," hedeclares, "is increasingly shifting from up and down to sideways." What is involved in sucha shift is a virtual revolution in organizational structure—and human relations. For peoplecommunicating "sideways"—i.e., to others at approximately the same level of organization—behave differently, operate under very different pressures, than those who must communicateup and down a hierarchy. To illustrate, let us look at a typical work setting in which a traditional bureaucratichierarchy operates. While still a young man I worked for a couple of years as a millwrightshelper in a foundry. Here, in a great dark cavern of a building, thousands of men labored toproduce automobile crankcase castings. The scene was Dantesque—smoke and soot smearedour faces, black dirt covered the floors and filled the air, the pungent, choking smell ofsulphur and burnt sand seared our nostrils. Overhead a creaking conveyor carried red hotcastings and dripped hot sand on the men below. There were flashes of molten iron, theyellow flares of fires, and a lunatic cacophony of noises: men shouting, chains rattling, pugmills hammering, compressed air shrieking. To a stranger the scene appeared chaotic. But those inside knew that everything wascarefully organized. Bureaucratic order prevailed. Men did the same job over and over again.Rules governed every situation. And each man knew exactly where he stood in a verticalhierarchy that reached from the lowest-paid core paster up to the unseen "they" whopopulated the executive suites in another building.
In the immense shed where we worked, something was always going wrong. A bearingwould burn out, a belt snap or a gear break. Whenever this happened in a section, work wouldscreech to a halt, and frantic messages would begin to flow up and down the hierarchy. Theworker nearest the breakdown would notify his foreman. He, in turn, would tell theproduction supervisor. The production supervisor would send word to the maintenancesupervisor. The maintenance supervisor would dispatch a crew to repair the damage. Information in this system is passed by the worker "upward" through the foreman to theproduction supervisor. The production supervisor carries it "sideways" to a man occupying aniche at approximately the same level in the hierarchy (the maintenance supervisor), who, inturn, passes it "downward" to the millwrights who actually get things going again. Theinformation thus must move a total of four steps up and down the vertical ladder plus onestep sideways before repairs can begin. This system is premised on the unspoken assumption that the dirty, sweaty men downbelow cannot make sound decisions. Only those higher in the hierarchy are to be trusted withjudgment or discretion. Officials at the top make the decisions; men at the bottom carry themout. One group represents the brains of the organization; the other, the hands. This typically bureaucratic arrangement is ideally suited to solving routine problems ata moderate pace. But when things speed up, or the problems cease to be routine, chaos oftenbreaks loose. It is easy to see why. First, the acceleration of the pace of life (and especially the speed-up of productionbrought about by automation) means that every minute of "down time" costs more in lostoutput than ever before. Delay is increasingly costly. Information must flow faster than everbefore. At the same time, rapid change, by increasing the number of novel, unexpectedproblems, increases the amount of information needed. It takes more information to copewith a novel problem than one we have solved a dozen or a hundred times before. It is thiscombined demand for more information at faster speeds that is now undermining the greatvertical hierarchies so typical of bureaucracy. A radical speed-up could have been effected in the foundry described above simply byallowing the worker to report the breakdown directly to the maintenance supervisor or evento a maintenance crew, instead of passing the news along through his foreman and productionsupervisor. At least one and perhaps two steps could have been cut from the four-stepcommunication process in this way—a saving of from 25 to 50 percent. Significantly, thesteps that might be eliminated are the up-and-down steps, the vertical ones. Today such savings are feverishly sought by managers fighting to keep up with change.Shortcuts that by-pass the hierarchy are increasingly employed in thousands of factories,offices, laboratories, even in the military. The cumulative result of such small changes is amassive shift from vertical to lateral communication systems. The intended result is speediercommunication. This leveling process, however, represents a major blow to the once-sacredbureaucratic hierarchy, and it punches a jagged hole in the "brain and hand" analogy. For asthe vertical chain of command is increasingly by-passed, we find "hands" beginning to makedecisions, too. When the worker by-passes his foreman or supervisor and calls in a repairteam, he makes a decision that in the past was reserved for these "higher ups." This silent but significant deterioration of hierarchy, now occurring in the executivesuite as well as at the ground level of the factory floor, is intensified by the arrival on thescene of hordes of experts—specialists in vital fields so narrow that often the men on tophave difficulty understanding them. Increasingly, managers have to rely on the judgment ofthese experts. Solid state physicists, computer programmers, systems designers, operationresearchers, engineering specialists—such men are assuming a new decision-makingfunction. At one time, they merely consulted with executives who reserved unto themselves
the right to make managerial decisions. Today, the managers are losing their monopoly ondecision-making. More and more, says Professor Read of McGill, the "specialists do not fit neatlytogether into a chain-of-command system" and "cannot wait for their expert advice to beapproved at a higher level." With no time for decisions to wend their leisurely way up anddown the hierarchy, "advisors" stop merely advising and begin to make decisions themselves.Often they do this in direct consultation with the workers and ground-level technicians. As a result, says Frank Metzger, director of personnel planning for InternationalTelephone and Telegraph Corporation, "You no longer have the strict allegiance to hierarchy.You may have five or six different levels of the hierarchy represented in one meeting. Youtry to forget about salary level and hierarchy, and organize to get the job done." Such facts, according to Professor Read, "represent a staggering change in thinking,action, and decision-making in organizations." Quite possibly, he declares, "the only trulyeffective methods for preventing, or coping with, problems of coordination andcommunication in our changing technology will be found in new arrangements of people andtasks, in arrangements which sharply break with the bureaucratic tradition." It will be a long time before the last bureaucratic hierarchy is obliterated. Forbureaucracies are well suited to tasks that require masses of moderately educated men toperform routine operations, and, no doubt, some such operations will continue to beperformed by men in the future. Yet it is precisely such tasks that the computer andautomated equipment do far better than men. It is clear that in super-industrial society manysuch tasks will be performed by great self-regulating systems of machines, doing away withthe need for bureaucratic organization. Far from fastening the grip of bureaucracy oncivilization more tightly than before, automation leads to its overthrow. As machines take over routine tasks and the accelerative thrust increases the amount ofnovelty in the environment, more and more of the energy of society (and its organizations)must turn toward the solution of non-routine problems. This requires a degree of imaginationand creativity that bureaucracy, with its man-in-a-slot organization, its permanent structures,and its hierarchies, is not well equipped to provide. Thus it is not surprising to find thatwherever organizations today are caught up in the stream of technological or social change,wherever research and development is important, wherever men must cope with first-timeproblems, the decline of bureaucratic forms is most pronounced. In these frontierorganizations a new system of human relations is springing up. To live, organizations must cast off those bureaucratic practices that immobilize them,making them less sensitive and less rapidly responsive to change. The result, according toJoseph A. Raffaele, Professor of Economics at Drexel Institute of Technology, is that we aremoving toward a "working society of technical co-equals" in which the "line of demarcationbetween the leader and the led has become fuzzy." Super-industrial Man, rather thanoccupying a permanent, cleanly-defined slot and performing mindless routine tasks inresponse to orders from above, finds increasingly that he must assume decision-makingresponsibility—and must do so within a kaleidoscopically changing organization structurebuilt upon highly transient human relationships. Whatever else might be said, this is not theold, familiar Weberian bureaucracy at which so many of our novelists and social critics arestill, belatedly, hurling their rusty javelins. BEYOND BUREAUCRACYIf it was Max Weber who first defined bureaucracy and predicted its triumph, Warren Bennismay go down in sociological textbooks as the man who first convincingly predicted its
demise and sketched the outlines of the organizations that are springing up to replace it. Atprecisely the moment when the outcry against bureaucracy was reaching its peak of shrillnesson American campuses and elsewhere, Bennis, a social psychologist and professor ofindustrial management, predicted flatly that "in the next twenty-five to fifty years" we will all"participate in the end of bureaucracy." He urged us to begin looking "beyond bureaucracy." Thus Bennis argues that "while various proponents of good human relations have beenfighting bureaucracy on humanistic grounds and for Christian values, bureaucracy seemsmost likely to founder on its inability to adapt to rapid change ... "Bureaucracy," he says, "thrives in a highly competitive undifferentiated and stableenvironment, such as the climate of its youth, the Industrial Revolution. A pyramidalstructure of authority, with power concentrated in the hands of a few ... was, and is, aneminently suitable social arrangement for routinized tasks. However, the environment haschanged in just those ways which make the mechanism most problematic. Stability hasvanished." Each age produces a form of organization appropriate to its own tempo. During thelong epoch of agricultural civilization, societies were marked by low transience. Delays incommunication and transportation slowed the rate at which information moved. The pace ofindividual life was comparatively slow. And organizations were seldom called upon to makewhat we would regard as high-speed decisions. The age of industrialism brought a quickened tempo to both individual andorganizational life. Indeed, it was precisely for this reason that bureaucratic forms wereneeded. For all that they seem lumbering and inefficient to us, they were, on the average,capable of making better decisions faster than the loose and ramshackle organizations thatpreceded them. With all the rules codified, with a set of fixed principles indicating how todeal with various work problems, the flow of decisions could be accelerated to keep up withthe faster pace of life brought by industrialism. Weber was keen enough to notice this, and he pointed out that "The extraordinaryincrease in the speed by which public announcements, as well as economic and political factsare transmitted exerts a steady and sharp pressure in the direction of speeding up the tempo ofadministrative reaction ..." He was mistaken, however, when he said "The optimum of suchreaction time is normally attained only by a strictly bureaucratic organization." For it is nowclear that the acceleration of change has reached so rapid a pace that even bureaucracy can nolonger keep up. Information surges through society so rapidly, drastic changes in technologycome so quickly that newer, even more instantly responsive forms of organization mustcharacterize the future. What, then, will be the characteristics of the organizations of super-industrial society?"The key word," says Bennis, "will be temporary; there will be adaptive, rapidly changingtemporary systems." Problems will be solved by task forces composed of "relative strangerswho represent a set of diverse professional skills." Executives and managers in this system will function as coordinators between thevarious transient work teams. They will be skilled in understanding the jargon of differentgroups of specialists, and they will communicate across groups, translating and interpretingthe language of one into the language of another. People in this system will, according toBennis, "be differentiated not vertically, according to rank and role, but flexibly andfunctionally, according to skill and professional training." Because of the high rate of movement back and forth from one transient team toanother, he continues, "There will ... be a reduced commitment to work groups ... While skillsin human interaction will become more important, due to the growing needs for collaborationin complex tasks, there will be a concomitant reduction in group cohesiveness ... People will
have to learn to develop quick and intense relationships on the job, and learn to bear the lossof more enduring work relationships." This then is a picture of the coming Ad-hocracy, the fast-moving, information-rich,kinetic organization of the future, filled with transient cells and extremely mobile individuals.From this sketch, moreover, it is possible to deduce some of the characteristics of the humanbeings who will populate these new organizations—and who, to some extent, are already tobe found in the prototype organizations of today. What emerges is dramatically different fromthe stereotype of the organization man. For just as the acceleration of change and increasednovelty in the environment demand a new form of organization, they demand, too, a newkind of man. Three of the outstanding characteristics of bureaucracy were, as we have seen,permanence, hierarchy, and a division of labor. These characteristics molded the humanbeings who manned the organizations. Permanence—the recognition that the link betweenman and organization would endure through time—brought with it a commitment to theorganization. The longer the man stayed within its embrace, the more he saw his past as aninvestment in the organization, the more he saw his personal future as dependent upon that ofthe organization. Longevity bred loyalty. In work organizations, this natural tendency waspowerfully reinforced by the knowledge that termination of ones links with the organizationvery often meant a loss of the means of economic survival. In a world wracked by scarcity forthe many, a job was precious. The bureaucrat was thus immobile and deeply oriented towardeconomic security. To keep his job, he willingly subordinated his own interests andconvictions to those of the organization. Power-laden hierarchies, through which authority flowed, wielded the whip by whichthe individual was held in line. Knowing that his relationship with the organization would berelatively permanent (or at least hoping that it would be) the organization man looked withinfor approval. Rewards and punishments came down the hierarchy to the individual, so thatthe individual, habitually looking upward at the next rung of the hierarchical ladder, becameconditioned to subservience. Thus: the wishy-washy organization man—the man withoutpersonal convictions (or without the courage to make them evident). It paid to conform. Finally, the organization man needed to understand his place in the scheme of things;he occupied a well-defined niche, performed actions that were also well-defined by the rulesof the organization, and he was judged by the precision with which he followed the book.Faced by relatively routine problems, he was encouraged to seek routine answers.Unorthodoxy, creativity, venturesomeness were discouraged, for they interfered with thepredictability required by the organization of its component parts. The embryonic Ad-hocracies of today demand a radically different constellation ofhuman characteristics. In place of permanence, we find transience—high mobility betweenorganizations, never-ending reorganizations within them, and a constant generation and decayof temporary work groupings. Not surprisingly, we witness a decline in old-fashioned"loyalty" to the organization and its sub-structures. Writing about young executives in American industry today, Walter Guzzardi, Jr.,declares: "The agreements between modern man and modern organization are not like thelaws of the Medes and the Persians. They were not made to stand forever ... The manperiodically examines his own attitude toward the organization, and gauges its attitudetoward him. If he doesnt like what he sees, he tries to change it. If he cant change it, hemoves." Says executive recruiter George Peck: "The number of top executives with theirrésumés in their desk drawer is amazing." The old loyalty felt by the organization man appears to be going up in smoke. In itsplace we are watching the rise of professional loyalty. In all of the techno-societies there is arelentless increase in the number of professional, technical and other specialists. In the United
States between 1950 and 1969 alone, their number has more than doubled and this classcontinues to grow more rapidly than any other group in the work force. Instead of operatingas individual, entrepreneurial free lancers, millions of engineers, scientists, psychologists,accountants and other professionals have entered the ranks of organization. What hashappened as a result is a neat dialectical reversal. Veblen wrote about the industrialization ofthe professional. Today we are observing the professionalization of industry. Thus John Gardner declares: "The loyalty of the professional man is to his professionand not to the organization that may house him at any given moment. Compare the chemist orelectronics engineer in a local plant with the non-professional executives in the same plant.The men the chemist thinks of as his colleagues are not those who occupy neighboringoffices, but his fellow professionals wherever they may be throughout the country, eventhroughout the world. Because of his fraternal ties with widely dispersed contemporaries, hehimself is highly mobile. But even if he stays in one place his loyalty to the localorganization is rarely of the same quality as that of the true organization man. He never quitebelieves in it. "The rise of the professions means that modern large-scale organization has beenheavily infiltrated by men who have an entirely different concept of what organization isabout ..." In effect, these men are "outsiders" working within the system. At the same time, the term "profession" is itself taking on new meaning. Just as thevertical hierarchies of bureaucracy break down under the combined impact of newtechnology, new knowledge, and social change, so too, do the horizontal hierarchies that haveuntil now divided human knowledge. The old boundaries between specialties are collapsing.Men increasingly find that the novel problems thrust at them can be solved only by reachingbeyond narrow disciplines. The traditional bureaucrat put electrical engineers in one compartment andpsychologists in another. Indeed, engineers and psychologists in their own professionalorganizations assumed an airtight distinction between their spheres of knowledge andcompetence. Today, however, in the aerospace industry, in education, and in other fields,engineers and psychologists are frequently thrown together in transient teams. Neworganizations reflecting these sometimes exotic intellectual mergers are springing up allaround the basic professions, so that we begin to find sub-groupings of bio-mathematicians,psycho-pharmacologists, engineer-librarians and computer-musicians. Distinctions betweenthe disciplines do not disappear; but they become finer, more porous, and there is a constantreshuffling process. In this situation, even professional loyalties turn into short-term commitments, and thework itself, the task to be done, the problem to be solved, begins to elicit the kind ofcommitment hitherto reserved for the organization. Professional specialists, according toBennis, "seemingly derive their rewards from inward standards of excellence, from theirprofessional societies, and from the intrinsic satisfaction of their task. In fact, they arecommitted to the task, not the job; to their standards, not their boss. And because they havedegrees, they travel. They are not good company men; they are uncommitted except to thechallenging environments where they can play with problems." These men of the future already man some of the Ad-hocracies that exist today. Thereis excitement and creativity in the computer industry, in educational technology, in theapplication of systems techniques to urban problems, in the new oceanography industry, ingovernment agencies concerned with environmental health, and elsewhere. In each of thesefields, more representative of the future than the past, there is a new venturesome spirit whichstands in total contrast to the security-minded orthodoxy and conformity associated with theorganization man.
The new spirit in these transient organizations is closer to that of the entrepreneur thanthe organization man. The free-swinging entrepreneur who started up vast enterprisesunafraid of defeat or adverse opinion, is a folk hero of industrialism, particularly in theUnited States. Pareto labeled the entrepreneurs "adventurous souls, hungry for novelty ... notat all alarmed at change." It is conventional wisdom to assert that the age of the entrepreneur is dead, and that inhis place there now stand only organization men or bureaucrats. Yet what is happening todayis a resurgence of entrepreneurialism within the heart of large organizations. The secretbehind this reversal is the new transience and the death of economic insecurity for largemasses of educated men. With the rise of affluence has come a new willingness to take risks.Men are willing to risk failure because they cannot believe they will ever starve. Thus saysCharles Elwell, director of industrial relations for Hunt Foods: "Executives look atthemselves as individual entrepreneurs who are selling their knowledge and skills." Indeed,as Max Ways has pointed out in Fortune: "The professional man in management has apowerful base of independence—perhaps a firmer base than the small businessman ever hadin his property rights." Thus we find the emergence of a new kind of organization man—a man who, despitehis many affiliations, remains basically uncommitted to any organization. He is willing toemploy his skills and creative energies to solve problems with equipment provided by theorganization, and within temporary groups established by it. But he does so only so long asthe problems interest him. He is committed to his own career, his own self-fulfillment. It is no accident, in light of the above, that the term "associate" seems suddenly to havebecome extremely popular in large organizations. We now have "associate marketingdirectors" and "research associates," and even government agencies are filled with "associatedirectors" and "associate administrators." The word associate implies co-equal, rather thansubordinate, and its spreading use accurately reflects the shift from vertical and hierarchicalarrangements to the new, more lateral, communication patterns. Where the organization man was subservient to the organization, Associative Man isalmost insouciant toward it. Where the organization man was immobilized by concern foreconomic security, Associative Man increasingly takes it for granted. Where the organizationman was fearful of risk, Associative Man welcomes it (knowing that in an affluent and fast-changing society even failure is transient). Where the organization man was hierarchy-conscious, seeking status and prestige within the organization, Associative Man seeks itwithout. Where the organization man filled a predetermined slot, Associative Man movesfrom slot to slot in a complex pattern that is largely self-motivated. Where the organizationman dedicated himself to the solution of routine problems according to well-defined rules,avoiding any show of unorthodoxy or creativity, Associative Man, faced by novel problems,is encouraged to innovate. Where the organization man had to subordinate his ownindividuality to "play ball on the team," Associative Man recognizes that the team, itself, istransient. He may subordinate his individuality for a while, under conditions of his ownchoosing; but it is never a permanent submergence. In all this, Associative Man bears with him a secret knowledge: the very temporarinessof his relationships with organization frees him from many of the bonds that constricted hispredecessor. Transience, in this sense, is liberating. Yet there is another side of the coin, and he knows this, as well. For the turnover ofrelationships with formal organizational structures brings with it an increased turnover ofinformal organization and a faster through-put of people as well. Each change brings with it aneed for new learning. He must learn the rules of the game. But the rules keep changing. Theintroduction of Ad-hocracy increases the adaptability of organizations; but it strains theadaptability of men. Thus Tom Burns, after a study of the British electronics industry, finds a
disturbing contrast between managers in stable organizational structures and those who findthemselves where change is most rapid. Frequent adaptation, he reports, "happened at thecost of personal satisfaction and adjustment. The difference in the personal tension of peoplein the top management positions and those of the same age who had reached a similarposition in a more stable situation was marked." And Bennis declares: "Coping with rapidchange, living in the temporary work systems, setting up (in quick-step time) meaningfulrelations—and then breaking them—all augur social strains and psychological tensions." It is possible that for many people, in their organizational relationships as in otherspheres, the future is arriving too soon. For the individual, the move toward Ad-hocracymeans a sharp acceleration in the turnover of organizational relationships in his life. Thusanother piece falls into place in our study of hightransience society. It becomes clear thatacceleration telescopes our ties with organization in much the same way that it truncates ourrelationships with things, places and people. The increased turnover of all these relationshipsplaces a heavy adaptive burden on individuals reared and educated for life in a slower-pacedsocial system. It is here that the danger of future shock lies. This danger, as we shall now see, isintensified by the impact of the accelerative thrust in the realm of information.
Chapter 8 INFORMATION: THE KINETIC IMAGEIn a society in which instant food, instant education and even instant cities are everydayphenomena, no product is more swiftly fabricated or more ruthlessly destroyed than theinstant celebrity. Nations advancing toward super-industrialism sharply step up their outputof these "psycho-economic" products. Instant celebrities burst upon the consciousness ofmillions like an image-bomb—which is exactly what they are. Within less than one year from the time a Cockney girl-child nicknamed "Twiggy" tookher first modelling job, millions of human beings around the globe stored mental images ofher in their brain. A dewy-eyed blonde with minimal mammaries and pipestem legs, Twiggyexploded into celebrityhood in 1967. Her winsome face and malnourished figure suddenlyappeared on the covers of magazines in Britain, America, France, Italy and other countries.Overnight, Twiggy eyelashes, mannikins, perfumes and clothes began to gush from the fadmills. Critics pontificated about her social significance. Newsmen accorded her the kind ofcoverage normally reserved for a peace treaty or a papal election. By now, however, our stored mental images of Twiggy have been largely erased. Shehas all but vanished from public view. Reality has confirmed her own shrewd estimate that "Imay not be around here for another six months." For images, too, have become increasinglytransient—and not only the images of models, athletes or entertainers. Not long ago I asked ahighly intelligent teenager whether she and her classmates had any heroes. I said, "Do youregard John Glenn, for example, as a hero?" (Glenn being, lest the reader has forgotten, thefirst American astronaut to orbit in space.) The childs response was revealing. "No," she said,"hes too old." At first I thought she regarded a man in his forties as being too old to be a hero. Soon Irealized this was mistaken. What she meant was that Glenns exploits had taken place toolong ago to be of interest. (John H. Glenns history-making flight occurred in February,1962.) Today Glenn has receded from the foreground of public attention. In effect, his imagehas decayed. Twiggy, the Beatles, John Glenn, Billie Sol Estes, Bob Dylan, Jack Ruby, NormanMailer, Eichmann, Jean-Paul Sartre, Georgi Malenkov, Jacqueline Kennedy—thousands of"personalities" parade across the stage of contemporary history. Real people, magnified andprojected by the mass media, they are stored as images in the minds of millions of peoplewho have never met them, never spoken to them, never seen them "in person." They take on areality almost as (and sometimes even more) intense than that of many people with whom wedo have "in-person" relationships. We form relationships with these "vicarious people," just as we do with friends,neighbors and colleagues. And just as the through-put of real, in-person people in our lives isincreasing, and the duration of our average relationship with them decreasing, the same istrue of our ties with the vicarious people who populate our minds. Their rate of flow-through is influenced by the real rate of change in the world. Thus, inpolitics, for example, we find that the British prime ministership has been turning over since1922 at a rate some 13 percent faster than in the base period 1721-1922. In sports, theheavyweight boxing championship now changes hands twice as fast as it did during ourfathers youth.* Events, moving faster, constantly throw new personalities into the charmedcircle of celebrityhood, and old images in the mind decay to make way for the new.
The same might be said for the fictional characters spewed out from the pages of books,from television screens, theaters, movies and magazines. No previous generation in historyhas had so many fictional characters flung at it. Commenting on the mass media, historianMarshall Fishwick wryly declares: "We may not even get used to Super-Hero, Captain Niceand Mr. Terrific before they fly off our television screens forever." These vicarious people, both live and fictional, play a significant role in our lives,providing models for behavior, acting out for us various roles and situations from which wedraw conclusions about our own lives. We deduce lessons from their activities, consciouslyor not. We learn from their triumphs and tribulations. They make it possible for us to "try on"various roles or life styles without suffering the consequences that might attend suchexperiments in real life. The accelerated flow-through of vicarious people cannot butcontribute to the instability of personality patterns among many real people who havedifficulty in finding a suitable life style. These vicarious people, however, are not independent of one another. They performtheir roles in a vast, complexly organized "public drama" which is, in the words of sociologistOrrin Klapp, author of a fascinating book called Symbolic Leaders, largely a product of thenew communications technology. This public drama, in which celebrities upstage and replacecelebrities at an accelerating rate, has the effect, according to Klapp, of making leadership"more unstable than it would be otherwise. Contretemps, upsets, follies, contests, scandals,make a feast of entertainment or a spinning political roulette wheel. Fads come and go at adizzying pace ... A country like the United States has an open public drama, in which newfaces appear daily, there is always a contest to steal the show, and almost anything canhappen and often does." What we are observing, says Klapp, is a "rapid turnover of symbolicleaders." This can be extended, however, into a far more powerful statement: what is happeningis not merely a turnover of real people or even fictional characters, but a more rapid turnoverof the images and image-structures in our brains. Our relationships with these images ofreality, upon which we base our behavior, are growing, on average, more and more transient.The entire knowledge system in society is undergoing violent upheaval. The very conceptsand codes in terms of which we think are turning over at a furious and accelerating pace. Weare increasing the rate at which we must form and forget our images of reality. * Between 1882 and 1932, there were ten new world heavyweight boxing champions, each holding thecrown an average of 5 years. Between 1932 and 1951, there were 7 champions, each with an average tenure of3.2 years. From 1951 to 1967, when the World Boxing Association declared the title vacant, 7 men held thechampionship for an average of 2.3 years each. TWIGGY AND THE K-MESONSEvery person carries within his head a mental model of the world—a subjectiverepresentation of external reality. This model consists of tens upon tens of thousands ofimages. These may be as simple as a mental picture of clouds scudding across the sky. Orthey may be abstract inferences about the way things are organized in society. We may thinkof this mental model as a fantastic internal warehouse, an image emporium in which we storeour inner portraits of Twiggy, Charles De Gaulle or Cassius Clay, along with such sweepingpropositions as "Man is basically good" or "God is dead." Any persons mental model will contain some images that approximate reality closely,along with others that are distorted or inaccurate. But for the person to function, even tosurvive, the model must bear some overall resemblance to reality. As V. Gordon Childe haswritten in Society and Knowledge, "Every reproduction of the external world, constructed and
used as a guide to action by an historical society, must in some degree correspond to thatreality. Otherwise the society could not have maintained itself; its members, if acting inaccordance with totally untrue propositions, would not have succeeded in making even thesimplest tools and in securing therewith food and shelter from the external world." No mans model of reality is a purely personal product. While some of his images arebased on firsthand observation, an increasing proportion of them today are based onmessages beamed to us by the mass media and the people around us. Thus the degree ofaccuracy in his model to some extent reflects the general level of knowledge in society. Andas experience and scientific research pump more refined and accurate knowledge into society,new concepts, new ways of thinking, supersede, contradict, and render obsolete older ideasand world views. If society itself were standing still, there might be little pressure on the individual toupdate his own supply of images, to bring them in line with the latest knowledge available inthe society. So long as the society in which he is embedded is stable or slowly changing, theimages on which he bases his behavior can also change slowly. But to function in a fast-changing society, to cope with swift and complex change, the individual must turn over hisown stock of images at a rate that in some way correlates with the pace of change. His modelmust be updated. To the degree that it lags, his responses to change become inappropriate; hebecomes increasingly thwarted, ineffective. Thus there is intense pressure on the individual tokeep up with the generalized pace. Today change is so swift and relentless in the techno-societies that yesterdays truthssuddenly become todays fictions, and the most highly skilled and intelligent members ofsociety admit difficulty in keeping up with the deluge of new knowledge—even in extremelynarrow fields. "You cant possibly keep in touch with all you want to," complains Dr. RudolphStohler, a zoologist at the University of California at Berkeley. "I spend 25 percent to 50percent of my working time trying to keep up with whats going on," says Dr. I. E. Wallen,chief of oceanography at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Dr. Emilio Segre, aNobel prizewinner in physics, declares: "On K-mesons alone, to wade through all the papersis an impossibility." And another oceanographer, Dr. Arthur Stump, admits: "I dont reallyknow the answer unless we declare a moratorium on publications for ten years." New knowledge either extends or outmodes the old. In either case it compels those forwhom it is relevant to reorganize their store of images. It forces them to relearn today whatthey thought they knew yesterday. Thus Lord James, vice-chancellor of the University ofYork, says, "I took my first degree in chemistry at Oxford in 1931." Looking at the questionsasked in chemistry exams at Oxford today, he continues, "I realize that not only can I not dothem, but that I never could have done them, since at least two-thirds of the questions involveknowledge that simply did not exist when I graduated." And Dr. Robert Hilliard, the topeducational broadcasting specialist for the Federal Communications Commission, presses thepoint further: "At the rate at which knowledge is growing, by the time the child born todaygraduates from college, the amount of knowledge in the world will be four times as great. Bythe time that same child is fifty years old, it will be thirty-two times as great, and 97 percentof everything known in the world will have been learned since the time he was born." Granting that definitions of "knowledge" are vague and that such statistics arenecessarily hazardous, there still can be no question that the rising tide of new knowledgeforces us into ever-narrower specialization and drives us to revise our inner images of realityat ever-faster rates. Nor does this refer merely to abstruse scientific information aboutphysical particles or genetic structure. It applies with equal force to various categories ofknowledge that closely affect the everyday life of millions.
THE FREUDIAN WAVEMuch new knowledge is admittedly remote from the immediate interests of the ordinary manin the street. He is not intrigued or impressed by the fact that a noble gas like xenon can formcompounds—something that until recently most chemists swore was impossible. While eventhis knowledge may have an impact on him when it is embodied in new technology, untilthen, he can afford to ignore it. A good bit of new knowledge, on the other hand, is directlyrelated to his immediate concerns, his job, his politics, his family life, even his sexualbehavior. A poignant example is the dilemma that parents find themselves in today as aconsequence of successive radical changes in the image of the child in society and in ourtheories of childrearing. At the turn of the century in the United States, for example, the dominant theoryreflected the prevailing scientific belief in the primacy of heredity in determining behavior.Mothers who had never heard of Darwin or Spencer raised their babies in ways consistentwith the world views of these thinkers. Vulgarized and simplified, passed from person toperson, these world views were reflected in the conviction of millions of ordinary people that"bad children are a result of bad stock," that "crime is hereditary," etc. In the early decades of the century, these attitudes fell back before the advance ofenvironmentalism. The belief that environment shapes personality, and that the early yearsare the most important, created a new image of the child. The work of Watson and Pavlovbegan to creep into the public ken. Mothers reflected the new behaviorism, refusing to feedinfants on demand, refusing to pick them up when they cried, weaning them early to avoidprolonged dependency. A study by Martha Wolfenstein has compared the advice offered parents in sevensuccessive editions of Infant Care, a handbook issued by the United States Childrens Bureaubetween 1914 and 1951. She found distinct shifts in the preferred methods for dealing withweaning, thumb-sucking, masturbation, bowel and bladder training. It is clear from this studythat by the late thirties still another image of the child had gained ascendancy. Freudianconcepts swept in like a wave and revolutionized childrearing practices. Suddenly, mothersbegan to hear about "the rights of infants" and the need for "oral gratification."Permissiveness became the order of the day. Parenthetically, at the same time that Freudian images of the child were altering thebehavior of parents in Dayton, Dubuque and Dallas, the image of the psychoanalyst changed,too. Psychoanalysts became culture heroes. Movies, television scripts, novels and magazinestories represented them as wise and sympathetic souls, wonder-workers capable of remakingdamaged personalities. From the appearance of the movie Spellbound in 1945, through thelate fifties, the analyst was painted in largely positive terms by the mass media. By the mid-sixties, however, he had already turned into a comical creature. PeterSellers in Whats New Pussycat? played a psychoanalyst much crazier than most of hispatients, and "psychoanalyst jokes" began to circulate not merely among New York andCalifornia sophisticates, but through the population at large, helped along by the same massmedia that created the myth of the analyst in the first place. This sharp reversal in the public image of the psychoanalyst (the public image being nomore than the weighted aggregate of private images in the society) reflected changes inresearch as well. For evidence was piling up that psychoanalytic therapy did not live up to theclaims made for it, and new knowledge in the behavioral sciences, and particularly inpsychopharmacology, made many Freudian therapeutic measures seem quaintly archaic. At
the same time, there was a great burst of research in the field of learning theory, and a newswing in childrearing, this time toward a kind of neo-behaviorism, got under way. At each stage of this development a widely held set of images was attacked by a set ofcounter-images. Individuals holding one set were assailed by reports, articles, documentaries,and advice from authorities, friends, relatives and even casual acquaintances who acceptedconflicting views. The same mother, turning to the same authorities at two different times inthe course of raising her child, would receive, in effect, somewhat different advice based ondifferent inferences about reality. While for the people of the past, childrearing patternsremained stable for centuries at a time, for the people of the present and the future, it has, likeso many other fields, become an arena in which successive waves of images, many of themgenerated by scientific research, do battle. In this way, new knowledge alters old. The mass media instantly and persuasivelydisseminate new images, and ordinary individuals, seeking help in coping with an ever morecomplex social environment, attempt to keep up. At the same time, events—as distinct fromresearch as such—also batter our old image structures. Racing swiftly past our attentionscreen, they wash out old images and generate new ones. After the freedom rides and the riotsin black ghettos only the pathological could hang on to the long-cherished notion that blacksare "happy children" content with their poverty. After the Israeli blitz victory over the Arabsin 1967, how many still cling to the image of the Jew as a cheek-turning pacifist or abattlefield coward? In education, in politics, in economic theory, in medicine, in international affairs, waveafter wave of new images penetrate our defenses, shake up our mental models of reality. Theresult of this image bombardment is the accelerated decay of old images, a faster intellectualthrough-put, and a new, profound sense of the impermanence of knowledge, itself. A BLIZZARD of BEST SELLERSThis impermanence is reflected in society in many subtle ways. A single dramatic example isthe impact of the knowledge explosion on that classic knowledge-container, the book. As knowledge has become more plentiful and less permanent, we have witnessed thevirtual disappearance of the solid old durable leather binding, replaced at first by cloth andlater by paper covers. The book itself, like much of the information it holds, has becomemore transient. A decade ago, communications systems designer Sol Cornberg, a radical prophet in thefield of library technology, declared that reading would soon cease to be a primary form ofinformation intake. "Reading and writing," he suggested, "will become obsolete skills."(Ironically, Mr. Cornbergs wife is a novelist.) Whether or not he is correct, one fact is plain: the incredible expansion of knowledgeimplies that each book (alas, this one included) contains a progressively smaller fraction ofall that is known. And the paperback revolution, by making inexpensive editions availableeverywhere, lessens the scarcity value of the book at precisely the very moment that theincreasingly rapid obsolescence of knowledge lessens its longterm informational value. Thus,in the United States a paperback appears simultaneously on more than 100,000 newsstands,only to be swept away by another tidal wave of publications delivered a mere thirty dayslater. The book thus approaches the transience of the monthly magazine. Indeed, many booksare no more than "one-shot" magazines. At the same time, the publics span of interest in a book—even a very popular book—isshrinking. Thus, for example, the life span of best sellers on The New York Times list israpidly declining. There are marked irregularities from year to year, and some books manage
to buck the tide. Nevertheless, if we examine the first four years for which full data on thesubject is available, 1953-1956, and compare this with a similar period one decade later,1963-1966, we find that the average best seller in the earlier period remained on the list a full18.8 weeks. A decade later this had shrunk to 15.7 weeks. Within a ten-year-period, the lifeexpectancy of the average best seller had shrunk by nearly one-sixth. We can understand such trends only if we grasp the elemental underlying truth. We arewitnessing an historic process that will inevitably change mans psyche. For across the board,from cosmetics to cosmology, from Twiggy-type trivia to the triumphant facts of technology,our inner images of reality, responding to the acceleration of change outside ourselves, arebecoming shorter-lived, more temporary. We are creating and using up ideas and images at afaster and faster pace. Knowledge, like people, places, things and organizational forms, isbecoming disposable. THE ENGINEERED MESSAGEIf our inner images of reality appear to be turning over more and more rapidly, one reasonmay well be an increase in the rate at which image-laden messages are being hurled at oursenses. Little effort has been made to investigate this scientifically, but there is evidence thatwe are increasing the exposure of the individual to image-bearing stimuli. To understand why, we need first to examine the basic sources of imagery. Where dothe thousands of images filed in our mental model come from? The external environmentshowers stimuli upon us. Signals originating outside ourselves—sound waves, light, etc.—strike our sensory organs. Once perceived, these signals are converted, through a stillmysterious process, into symbols of reality, into images. These incoming signals are of several types. Some might be called uncoded. Thus, forexample, a man walks along a street and notices a leaf whipped along the sidewalk by thewind. He perceives this event through his sensory apparatus. He hears a rustling sound. Hesees movement and greenness. He feels the wind. From these sensory perceptions hesomehow forms a mental image. We can refer to these sensory signals as a message. But themessage was not, in any ordinary sense of the term, man-made. It was not designed byanyone to communicate anything, and the mans understanding of it does not depend directlyon a social code—a set of socially agreed-upon signs and definitions. We are all surroundedby and participate in such events. When they occur within range of our senses, we may pickup uncoded messages from them and convert these messages into mental images. In fact,some proportion of the images in every individuals mental model are derived from suchuncoded messages. But we also receive coded messages from outside ourselves. Coded messages are anywhich depend upon social convention for their meaning. All languages, whether based onwords or gestures, drumbeats or dancesteps, hieroglyphs, pictographs or the arrangement ofknots in a string, are codes. All messages conveyed by means of such languages are coded.We may speculate with some safety that as societies have grown larger and more complex,proliferating codes for the transmission of images from person to person, the ratio of uncodedmessages received by the ordinary person has declined in favor of coded messages. We mayguess, in other words, that today more of our imagery derives from man-made messages thanfrom personal observation of raw, "uncoded" events. Furthermore, we can discern a subtle but significant shift in the type of coded messagesas well. For the illiterate villager in an agricultural society of the past, most of the incomingmessages were what might be called casual or "do-it-yourself" communications. The peasantmight engage in ordinary household conversation, banter, cracker-barrel or tavern talk,
griping, complaining, boasting, baby talk, (and, in the same sense, animal talk), etc. Thisdetermined the nature of most of the coded messages he received, and one characteristic ofthis sort of communication is its loose, unstructured, garrulous or unedited quality. Compare this message input with the kind of coded messages received by the ordinarycitizen of the present-day industrial society. In addition to all of the above, he also receivesmessages—mainly from the mass media—that have been artfully fashioned bycommunications experts. He listens to the news; he watches carefully scripted plays,telecasts, movies; he hears much more music (a highly disciplined form of communication);he hears frequent speeches. Above all, he does something his peasant ancestor could not do:He reads—thousands of words every day, all of them carefully edited in advance. The industrial revolution, bringing with it the enormous elaboration of the mass media,thus alters radically the nature of the messages received by the ordinary individual. Inaddition to receiving uncoded messages from the environment, and coded but casualmessages from the people around him, the individual now begins to receive a growingnumber of coded but pre-engineered messages as well. These engineered messages differ from the casual or do-it-yourself product in onecrucial respect: Instead of being loose or carelessly framed, the engineered product tends tobe tighter, more condensed, less redundant. It is highly purposive, preprocessed to eliminateunnecessary repetition, consciously designed to maximize informational content. It is, ascommunications theorists say, "information-rich." This highly significant but often overlooked fact can be observed by anyone who takesthe trouble to compare a tape recorded sample of 500 words of ordinary householdconversation (i.e., coded, but casual) with 500 words of newspaper text or movie dialogue(also coded, but engineered). Casual conversation tends to be filled with repetition andpauses. Ideas are repeated several times, often in identical words, but if not, then varied onlyslightly. In contrast, the 500 words of newspaper copy or movie dialogue are carefully pre-edited, streamlined. They convey relatively non-repetitive ideas. They tend to be moregrammatically accurate than ordinary conversation and, if presented orally, they tend to beenunciated more clearly. Waste material has been trimmed away. Editor, writer, director—everyone involved in the production of the engineered message —fights to "keep the storymoving" or to produce "fast-paced action." It is no accident that books, movies, televisionplays, are so frequently advertised as "high-speed adventure," "fast-reading," or "breathless."No publisher or movie producer would dare advertise his work as "repetitive" or "redundant." Thus, as radio, television, newspapers, magazines and novels sweep through society, asthe proportion of engineered messages received by the individual rises (and the proportion ofuncoded and coded casual messages correspondingly declines), we witness a profoundchange: a steady speed-up in the average pace at which image-producing messages arepresented to the individual. The sea of coded information that surrounds him begins to beat athis senses with new urgency. This helps account for the sense of hurry in everyday affairs. But if industrialism ismarked by a communications speed-up, the transition to super-industrialism is marked byintense efforts to accelerate the process even further. The waves of coded information turninto violent breakers and come at a faster and faster clip, pounding at us, seeking entry, as itwere, to our nervous system. MOZART ON THE RUN
In the United States today the median time spent by adults reading newspapers is fifty-twominutes per day. The same person who commits nearly an hour to newspapers also spendstime reading magazines, books, signs, billboards, recipes, instructions, labels on cans,advertising on the back of breakfast food boxes, etc. Surrounded by print, he "ingests"between 10,000 and 20,000 edited words per day of the several times that many to which heis exposed. The same person also probably spends an hour and a quarter per day listening tothe radio—more if he owns an FM receiver. If he listens to news, commercials, commentaryor other such programs, he will, during this period, hear about 11,000 pre-processed words.He also spends several hours watching television—add another 10,000 words or so, plus asequence of carefully arranged, highly purposive visuals.* Nothing, indeed, is quite so purposive as advertising, and today the average Americanadult is assaulted by a minimum of 560 advertising messages each day. Of the 560 to whichhe is exposed, however, he only notices seventy-six. In effect, he blocks out 484 advertisingmessages a day to preserve his attention for other matters. All this represents the press of engineered messages against his senses. And thepressure is rising. In an effort to transmit even richer image-producing messages at an evenfaster rate, communications people, artists and others consciously work to make each instantof exposure to the mass media carry a heavier informational and emotional freight. Thus we see the widespread and increasing use of symbolism for compactinginformation. Today advertising men, in a deliberate attempt to cram more messages into theindividuals mind within a given moment of time, make increasing use of the symbolictechniques of the arts. Consider the "tiger" that is allegedly put in ones tank. Here a singleword transmits to the audience a distinct visual image that has been associated sincechildhood with power, speed, and force. The pages of advertising trade magazines likePrinters Ink are filled with sophisticated technical articles about the use of verbal and visualsymbolism to accelerate image-flow. Indeed, today many artists might learn new image-accelerating techniques from the advertising men. If the ad men, who must pay for each split second of time on radio or television, andwho fight for the readers fleeting attention in magazines and newspapers, are busy trying tocommunicate maximum imagery in minimum time, there is evidence, too, that at least somemembers of the public want to increase the rate at which they can receive messages andprocess images. This explains the phenomenal success of speed-reading courses amongcollege students, business executives, politicians and others. One leading speed-readingschool claims it can increase almost anyones input speed three times, and some readersreport the ability to read literally tens of thousands of words per minute—a claim roundlydisputed by many reading experts. Whether or not such speeds are possible, the clear fact isthat the rate of communication is accelerating. Busy people wage a desperate battle each dayto plow through as much information as possible. Speed-reading presumably helps them dothis. The impulse toward acceleration in communications is, however, by no means limitedto advertising or to the printed word. A desire to maximize message content in minimum timeexplains, for example, the experiments conducted by psychologists at the American Institutesfor Research who played taped lectures at faster than normal speeds and then tested thecomprehension of listeners. Their purpose: to discover whether students would learn more iflecturers talked faster. The same intent to accelerate information flow explains the recent obsession with split-screen and multiscreen movies. At the Montreal Worlds Fair, viewers in pavilion afterpavilion were confronted not with a traditional movie screen on which ordered visual imagesappear in sequence, but with two, three, or five screens, each of them hurling messages at theviewer at the same time. On these, several stories play themselves out at the same time,
demanding of the viewer the ability to accept many more messages simultaneously than anymovie-goer in the past, or else to censor out, or block, certain messages to keep the rate ofmessage-input, or image-stimulation, within reasonable limits. The author of an article in Life, entitled "A Film Revolution to Blitz Mans Mind,"accurately describes the experience in these words: "Having to look at six images at the sametime, having to watch in twenty minutes the equivalent of a full length movie, excites andcrams the mind." Elsewhere he suggests that another multi-screen film "by putting more intoa moment, condenses time." Even in music the same accelerative thrust is increasingly evident. A conference ofcomposers and computer specialists held in San Francisco not long ago was informed that forseveral centuries music has been undergoing "an increase in the amount of auditoryinformation transmitted during a given interval of time," and there is evidence also thatmusicians today play the music of Mozart, Bach and Haydn at a faster tempo than that atwhich the same music was performed at the time it was composed. We are getting Mozart onthe run. * This is not to suggest that only words and pictures convey or evoke images. Music, too, sets theinternal image machinery working, although the images produced may be completely non-verbal. THE SEMI-LITERATE SHAKESPEAREIf our images of reality are changing more rapidly, and the machinery of image-transmissionis being speeded up, a parallel change is altering the very codes we use. For language, too, isconvulsing. According to lexicographer Stuart Berg Flexner, senior editor of the RandomHouse Dictionary of the English Language, "The words we use are changing faster today—and not merely on the slang level, but on every level. The rapidity with which words comeand go is vastly accelerated. This seems to be true not only of English, but of French, Russianand Japanese as well." Flexner illustrated this with the arresting suggestion that, of the estimated 450,000"usable" words in the English language today, only perhaps 250,000 would becomprehensible to William Shakespeare. Were Shakespeare suddenly to materialize inLondon or New York today, he would be able to understand, on the average, only five out ofevery nine words in our vocabulary. The Bard would be a semi-literate. This implies that if the language had the same number of words in Shakespeares timeas it does today, at least 200,000 words—perhaps several times that many—have dropped outand been replaced in the intervening four centuries. Moreover, Flexner conjectures that a fullthird of this turnover has occurred within the last fifty years alone. This, if correct, wouldmean that words are now dropping out of the language and being replaced at a rate at leastthree times faster than during the base period 1564 to 1914. This high turnover rate reflects changes in things, processes, and qualities in theenvironment. Some new words come directly from the world of consumer products andtechnology. Thus, for example, words like "fast-back," "wash-and-wear" or flashcube" wereall propelled into the language by advertising in recent years. Other words come from theheadlines. "Sit-in" and "swim-in" are recent products of the civil rights movement; "teach-in"a product of the campaign against the Vietnam war; "be-in" and "love-in" products of thehippie subculture. The LSD cult has brought with it a profusion of new words—"acid-head,""psychedelic," etc. At the level of slang, the turnover rate is so rapid that it has forced dictionary makers tochange their criteria for word inclusion. "In 1954," says Flexner, "when I started work on the
Dictionary of American Slang, I would not consider a word for inclusion unless I could findthree uses of the word over a five-year period. Today such a criterion would be impossible.Language, like art, is increasingly becoming a fad proposition. The slang terms fab andgear, for example, didnt last a single year. They entered the teen-age vocabulary in about1966; by 1967 they were out. You cannot use a time criterion for slang any more. One fact contributing to the rapid introduction and obsolescence of words is theincredible speed with which a new word can be injected into wide usage. In the late 1950sand early sixties one could actually trace the way in which certain scholarly jargon wordssuch as "rubric" or "subsumed" were picked up from academic journals, used in small-circulation periodicals like the New York Review of Books or Commentary, then adopted byEsquire with its then circulation of 800,000 to 1,000,000, and finally diffused through thelarger society by Time, Newsweek and the larger mass magazines. Today the process has beentelescoped. The editors of mass magazines no longer pick up vocabulary from theintermediate intellectual publications alone; they, too, lift directly from the scholarly press intheir hurry to be "on top of things." When Susan Sontag disinterred the word "camp" and used it as the basis of an essay inPartisan Review in the fall of 1964, Time waited only a few weeks before devoting an articleto the word and its rejuvenator. Within a matter of a few additional weeks, the term wascropping up in newspapers and other mass media. Today the word has virtually dropped outof usage. "Teenybopper" is another word that came and went with blinding speed. A more significant example of language turnover can be seen in the sudden shift ofmeaning associated with the ethnic term "black." For years, dark-skinned Americansregarded the term as racist. Liberal whites dutifully taught their children to use the term"Negro" and to capitalize the "N." Shortly after Stokely Carmichael proclaimed the doctrineof Black Power in Greenwood, Mississippi in June, 1966, however, "black" became a term ofpride among both blacks and whites in the movement for racial justice. Caught off guard,liberal whites went through a period of confusion, uncertain as to whether to use Negro orblack. Black was quickly legitimated when the mass media adopted the new meaning. Withina few months, black was "in," Negro "out." Even faster cases of diffusion are on record. "The Beatles," says lexicographer Flexner,"at the height of their fame could make up any word they like, slip it into a record, and withina month it would be part of the language. At one time perhaps no more than fifty people inNASA used the word A-OK. But when an astronaut used it during a televised flight, theword became part of the language in a single day. The same has been true of other spaceterms, too—lik sputnik or all systems go." As new words sweep in, old words vanish. A picture of a nude girl nowadays is nolonger a "pin-up" or a "cheesecake shot," but a "playmate." "Hep" has given way to "hip";"hipster" to "hippie." "Go-go" rushed eagerly into the language at breakneck speed, but it isalready gone-gone among those who are truly "with it." The turnover of language would even appear to involve non-verbal forms ofcommunication as well. We have slang gestures, just as we have slang words—thumbs up ordown, thumb to nose, the "shame on you" gesture used by children, the hand moving acrossthe neck to suggest a throat-slitting. Professionals who watch the development of the gesturallanguage suggest that it, too, may be changing more rapidly. Some gestures that were regarded as semi-obscene have become somewhat moreacceptable as sexual values have changed in the society. Others that were used only by a fewhave achieved wider usage. An example of diffusion, Flexner observes, is the wider use todayof that gesture of contempt and defiance—the fist raised and screwed about. The invasion ofItalian movies that hit the United States in the fifties and sixties probably contributed to this.Similarly, the upraised finger—the "up yours" gesture—appears to be gaining greater
respectability and currency than it once had. At the same time, other gestures have virtuallyvanished or been endowed with radically changed meaning. The circle formed by the thumband forefinger to suggest that all goes well appears to be fading out; Churchills "V forVictory" sign is now used by protesters to signify something emphatically different: "peace"not "victory." There was a time when a man learned the language of his society and made use of it,with little change, throughout his lifetime. His "relationship" with each learned word orgesture was durable. Today, to an astonishing degree, it is not. ART: CUBISTS AND KINETICISTSArt, like gesture, is a form of non-verbal expression and a prime channel for the transmissionof images. Here the evidences of ephemeralization are, if anything, even more pronounced. Ifwe regard each school of art as though it were a word-based language, we are witnessing thesuccessive replacement not of words, but of whole languages at once. In the past one rarelysaw a fundamental change in an art style within a mans lifetime. A style or school endured,as a rule, for generations at a time. Today the pace of turnover in art is vision-blurring—theviewer scarcely has time to "see" a school develop, to learn its language, so to speak, before itvanishes. Bursting on the scene in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Impressionism wasonly the first of a sequence of shattering changes. It came at a time when industrialism wasbeginning its climactic forward surge, bringing with it a notable step-up in the tempo ofeveryday life. "It is above all the furious speed of [technological] development and the waythe pace is forced that seems pathological, particularly when compared with the rate ofprogress in earlier periods in the history of art and culture," writes the art historian ArnoldHauser in describing the turnover of art styles. "For the rapid development of technology notonly accelerates the change of fashion, but also the shifting emphases in the criteria ofaesthetic taste. ... The continual and increasingly rapid replacement of old articles in everydayuse by new ones ... readjusts the speed at which philosophical and artistic revaluations occur..." If we roughly date the Impressionist interval from 1875 to 1910, we see a period ofdominance lasting approximately thirty-five years. Since then no school or style, fromFuturism to Fauvism, from Cubism to Surrealism, has dominated the scene for even that long.One after another, styles supplant one another. The most enduring twentieth-century school,Abstract Expressionism, held sway for at most twenty years, from 1940 to 1960, then to befollowed by a wild succession—"Pop" lasting perhaps five years, "Op" managing to grip thepublics attention for two or three years, then the emergence, appropriately enough, of"Kinetic Art" whose very raison dêtre is transience. This phantasmagoric turnover is evident not merely in New York or San Francisco, butin Paris, in Rome, in Stockholm and London—wherever painters are found. Thus RobertHughes writes in the New Society: "Hailing the new painters is now one of the annual sportsin England ... The enthusiasm for discovering a new direction in English art once a year hasbecome a mania—an euphoric, almost hysterical belief in renewal." Indeed, he suggests, theexpectation that each year will bring a new mode and a new crop of artists is "a significantparody of what is, in itself, a parodical situation—the accelerated turnover in the avant-gardetoday." If schools of art may be likened to languages, then individual works of art may becompared to words. If we make this transposition, we find in art a process exactly analogousto that now occurring in the verbal language. Here, too, "words"—i.e., individual works of
art—are coming into use and then dropping out of the vocabulary at heightened speeds.Individual works flash across our consciousness in galleries or in the pages of massmagazines; the next time we look they are gone. Sometimes the work itself quite literallydisappears—many are collages or constructions built of fragile materials that simply fall apartafter a short time. Much of the confusion in the art world today arises from the failure of the culturalestablishment to recognize, once and for all, that elitism and permanence are dead—so, atleast, contends John McHale, the imaginative Scot, half artist/half social scientist, who headsthe Center for Integrative Studies, State University of New York at Binghamton. In a forcefulessay entitled The Plastic Parthenon, McHale points out that "traditional canons of literaryand artistic judgment ... tend to place high value on permanence, uniqueness and the enduringuniversal value of chosen artifacts." Such aesthetic standards, he argues, were appropriateenough in a world of handcrafted goods and relatively small taste-making elites. These samestandards, however, "in no way enable one to relate adequately to our present situation inwhich astronomical numbers of artifacts are mass produced, circulated and consumed. Thesemay be identical, or only marginally different. In varying degree, they are expendable,replaceable, and lack any unique value or intrinsic truth." Todays artists, McHale suggests, neither work for a tiny elite nor take seriously theidea that permanence is a virtue. The future of art, he says, "seems no longer to lie with thecreation of enduring masterworks." Rather, artists work for the short term. McHale concludesthat: "Accelerated changes in the human condition require an array of symbolic images ofman which will match up to the requirements of constant change, fleeting impression and ahigh rate of obsolescence." We need, he says, "a replaceable, expendable series of ikons." One may quarrel with McHales contention that transience in art is desirable. Perhapsthe flight from permanence is a tactical error. It can even be argued that our artists areemploying homeopathic magic, behaving like primitives who, awed by a force they do notcomprehend, attempt to exert control over it by simple-mindedly imitating it. But whateverones attitude toward contemporary art, transience remains an implacable fact, a social andhistoric tendency so central to our times that it cannot be ignored. And it is clear that artistsare reacting to it. The impulse toward transience in art explains the whole development of that mosttransient of art works, the "happening." Allan Kaprow, who is often credited with originatingthe happening, has explicitly suggested its relationship to the throw-away culture withinwhich we live. The happening, according to its proponents, is ideally performed once andonce only. The happening is the Kleenex tissue of art. This so, kinetic art can be considered the aesthetic embodiment of modularism. Kineticsculptures or constructions crawl, whistle, whine, swing, twitch, rock or pulsate, their lightsblinking, their magnetic tapes whirling, their plastic, steel, glass and copper componentsarranging and rearranging themselves into evanescent patterns within a given, thoughsometimes concealed, framework. Here the wiring and connections tend to be the leasttransient part of the structure, just as the gantry cranes and service towers in JoanLittlewoods Fun Palace are designed to outlive any particular arrangement of the modularcomponents. The intent of the kinetic work, however, is to create maximum variability andmaximum transience. Jean Clay has pointed out that in a traditional work of art "therelationship of parts to a whole had been decided forever." In kinetic art, he says, the"balance of forms is in flux." Many artists are working with engineers and scientists today, in the hope of exploitingthe latest technical processes for their own purpose, the symbolization of the accelerativethrust in society. "Speed," writes Francastel, the French art critic, "has become something
undreamt-of, and constant movement every mans intimate experience." Art reflects this newreality. Thus we find artists from France, England, the United States, Scotland, Sweden, Israeland elsewhere creating kinetic images. Their creed is perhaps best expressed by YaacovAgam, an Israeli kineticist, who says: "We are different from what we were three momentsago, and in three minutes more, we will again be different ... I try to give this approach aplastic expression by creating a visual form that doesnt exist. The image appears anddisappears, but nothing is retained." The final culmination of such efforts, of course, is the creation of those new and quitereal "fun palaces"—so-called total environment nightclubs in which the fun-seeker plungesinto a space in which lights, colors and sounds change their patterns constantly. In effect, thepatron steps inside a work of kinetic art. Here again the framework, the building itself, is onlythe longest lasting part of the whole, while its interior is designed to produce transientcombinations of sensory in-puts. Whether one regards this as fun or not depends on theindividual, perhaps; but the overall direction of such movements is clear. In art, as inlanguage, we are racing toward impermanence. Mans relationships with symbolic imageryare growing more and more temporary. THE NEURAL INVESTMENTEvents speed past us, compelling us to reassess our assumptions—our previous formedimages of reality. Research topples older conceptions of man and nature. Ideas come and goat a frenetic rate. (A rate, that, in science at least, has been estimated to be twenty to onehundred times faster than a mere century ago.) Image-laden messages hammer at our senses.Meanwhile, language and art, the codes through which we transfer image-bearing messagesto one another, are themselves turning over more rapidly. All this cannot—and does not—leave us unchanged. It accelerates the rate at which theindividual must process his imagery if he is to adapt successfully to the churningenvironment. Nobody really knows how we convert signals from outside into images within.Yet psychology and the information sciences cast some light on what happens once the imageis born. They suggest, to begin with, that the mental model is organized into many highlycomplex image-structures, and that new images are, in effect, filed away in these structuresaccording to several classificatory principles. A newly generated image is filed away withother images pertaining to the same subject matter. Smaller and more limited inferences areranged under larger and more inclusive generalizations. The image is checked out for itsconsistency with those already in file. (There is evidence of the existence of a specific neuralmechanism that carries out this consistency-checking procedure.) We make a decision, withrespect to the image, as to whether it is closely relevant to our goals, or whether, instead, it isremote and hence, for us, unimportant. Each image is also evaluated—is it "good" or "bad"for us? Finally, whatever else we do with the new image, we also judge its truth. We decidejust how much faith to place in it. Is it an accurate reflection of reality? Can it be believed?Can we base action on it? A new image that clearly fits somewhere into a subject matter slot, and which isconsistent with images already stored there, gives us little difficulty. But if, as happensincreasingly, the image is ambiguous, if it is inconsistent, or, worse yet, if it flies in the faceof our previous inferences, the mental model has to be forcibly revised. Large numbers ofimages may have to be reclassified, shuffled, changed again until a suitable integration isfound. Sometimes whole groups of image-structures have to be torn down and rebuilt. Inextreme cases, the basic shape of the whole model has to be drastically overhauled.
Thus the mental model must be seen not as a static library of images, but as a livingentity, tightly charged with energy and activity. It is not a "given" that we passively receivefrom outside. Rather, it is something we actively construct and reconstruct from moment tomoment. Restlessly scanning the outer world with our senses, probing for informationrelevant to our needs and desires, we engage in a constant process of rearrangement andupdating. At any given instant, innumerable images are decaying, dropping into the blackimmensity of the forgotten. Others are entering the system, being processed and filed. At thesame time, we are retrieving images, "using them," and returning them to file, perhaps in adifferent place. We are constantly comparing images, associating them, cross-referencingthem in new ways, and repositioning them. This is what is meant by the term "mentalactivity." And like muscular activity, it is a form of work. It requires high energy to keep thesystem operating. Change, roaring through society, widens the gap between what we believe and whatreally is, between the existing images and the reality they are supposed to reflect. When thisgap is only moderate, we can cope more or less rationally with change, we can react sanely tonew conditions, we have a grip on reality. When this gap grows too wide, however, we findourselves increasingly unable to cope, we respond inappropriately, we become ineffectual,withdraw or simply panic. At the final extreme, when the gap grows too wide, we sufferpsychosis—or even death. To maintain our adaptive balance, to keep the gap within manageable proportions, westruggle to refresh our imagery, to keep it up-to-date, to relearn reality. Thus the accelerativethrust outside us finds a corresponding speed-up in the adapting individual. Our image-processing mechanisms, whatever they may be, are driven to operate at higher and higherspeeds. This has consequences that have been as yet largely overlooked. For when we classifyan image, any image, we make a definite, perhaps even measurable, energy-investment in aspecific organizational pattern in the brain. Learning requires energy; and relearning requireseven more. "All the researches on learning," writes Harold D. Lasswell of Yale, "seem toconfirm the view that energies are bound in support of past learning, and that new energiesare essential to unbind the old ..." At the neurological level, he continues, "Any establishedsystem appears to include exceedingly intricate arrangements of cell material, electricalcharges and chemical elements. At any cross section in time ... the somatic structurerepresents a tremendous investment of fixed forms and potentials ..." What this means in briefis very simple: there are costs involved in relearning—or, in our terminology, reclassifyingimagery. In all the talk about the need for continuing education, in all the popular discussions ofretraining, there is an assumption that mans potentials for re-education are unlimited. This is,at best, an assumption, not a fact, and it is an assumption that needs close and scientificscrutiny. The process of image formation and classification is, in the end, a physical process,dependent upon finite characteristics of nerve cells and body chemicals. In the neural systemas now constituted there are, in all likelihood, inherent limits to the amount and speed ofimage processing that the individual can accomplish. How fast and how continuously can theindividual revise his inner images before he smashes up against these limits? Nobody knows. It may well be that the limits stretch so far beyond present needs, thatsuch gloomy speculations are unjustified. Yet one salient fact commands attention: byspeeding up change in the outer world, we compel the individual to relearn his environmentat every moment. This, in itself, places a new demand on the nervous system. The people ofthe past, adapting to comparatively stable environments, maintained longer-lasting ties withtheir own inner conceptions of "the-way-things-are." We, moving into high-transience
society, are forced to truncate these relationships. Just as we must make and break ourrelationships with things, places, people and organizations at an ever more rapid pace, so, too,must we turn over our conceptions of reality, our mental images of the world at shorter andshorter intervals. Transience, then, the forcible abbreviation of mans relationships, is not merely acondition of the external world. It has its shadow within us as well. New discoveries, newtechnologies, new social arrangements in the external world erupt into our lives in the formof increased turnover rates—shorter and shorter relational durations. They force a faster andfaster pace of daily life. They demand a new level of adaptability. And they set the stage forthat potentially devastating social illness—future shock.
Chapter 9 THE SCIENTIFIC TRAJECTORYWe are creating a new society. Not a changed society. Not an extended, larger-than-lifeversion of our present society. But a new society. This simple premise has not yet begun to tincture our consciousness. Yet unless weunderstand this, we shall destroy ourselves in trying to cope with tomorrow. A revolution shatters institutions and power relationships. This is precisely what ishappening today in all the high-technology nations. Students in Berlin and New York, inTurin and Tokyo, capture their deans and chancellors, bring great clanking educationfactories to a grinding halt, and even threaten to topple governments. Police stand aside in theghettos of New York, Washington and Chicago as ancient property laws are openly violated.Sexual standards are overthrown. Great cities are paralyzed by strikes, power failures, riots.International power alliances are shaken. Financial and political leaders secretly tremble—notout of fear that communist (or capitalist) revolutionaries will oust them, but that the entiresystem is somehow flying out of control. These are indisputable signs of a sick social structure, a society that can no longerperform even its most basic functions in the accustomed ways. It is a society caught in theagony of revolutionary change. In the 1920s and 1930s, communists used to speak of the"general crisis of capitalism." It is now clear that they were thinking small. What is occurringnow is not a crisis of capitalism, but of industrial society itself, regardless of its politicalform. We are simultaneously experiencing a youth revolution, a sexual revolution, a racialrevolution, a colonial revolution, an economic revolution, and the most rapid and deep-goingtechnological revolution in history. We are living through the general crisis of industrialism.In a word, we are in the midst of the super-industrial revolution. If failure to grasp this fact impairs ones ability to understand the present, it also leadsotherwise intelligent men into total stupidity when they talk about the future. It encouragesthem to think in simple-minded straight lines. Seeing evidence of bureaucracy today, theynaïvely assume there will be more bureaucracy tomorrow. Such linear projectionscharacterize most of what is said or written about the future. And it causes us to worry aboutprecisely the wrong things. One needs imagination to confront a revolution. For revolution does not move instraight lines alone. It jerks, twists and backtracks. It arrives in the form of quantum jumpsand dialectical reversals. Only by accepting the premise that we are racing toward a whollynew stage of eco-technological development—the super-industrial stage—can we make senseof our era. Only by accepting the revolutionary premise can we free our imaginations tograpple with the future. Revolution implies novelty. It sends a flood of newness into the lives of countlessindividuals, confronting them with unfamiliar institutions and first-time situations. Reachingdeep into our personal lives, the enormous changes ahead will transform traditional familystructures and sexual attitudes. They will smash conventional relationships between old andyoung. They will overthrow our values with respect to money and success. They will alterwork, play and education beyond recognition. And they will do all this in a context ofspectacular, elegant, yet frightening scientific advance. If transience is the first key to understanding the new society, therefore, novelty is thesecond. The future will unfold as an unending succession of bizarre incidents, sensationaldiscoveries, implausible conflicts, and wildly novel dilemmas. This means that many
members of the super-industrial society will never "feel at home" in it. Like the voyager whotakes up residence in an alien country, only to find, once adjusted, that he must move on toanother, and yet another, we shall come to feel like "strangers in a strange land." The super-industrial revolution can erase hunger, disease, ignorance and brutality.Moreover, despite the pessimistic prophecies of the straight-line thinkers, super-industrialismwill not restrict man, will not crush him into bleak and painful uniformity. In contrast, it willradiate new opportunities for personal growth, adventure and delight. It will be vividlycolorful and amazingly open to individuality. The problem is not whether man can surviveregimentation and standardization. The problem, as we shall see, is whether he can survivefreedom. Yet for all this, man has never truly inhabited a novelty-filled environment before.Having to live at an accelerating pace is one thing when life situations are more or lessfamiliar. Having to do so when faced by unfamiliar, strange or unprecedented situations isdistinctly another. By unleashing the forces of novelty, we slam men up against the non-routine, the unpredicted. And, by so doing, we escalate the problems of adaptation to a newand dangerous level. For transience and novelty are an explosive mix. If all this seems doubtful, let us contemplate some of the novelties that lie in store forus. Combining rational intelligence with all the imagination we can command, let us projectourselves forcefully into the future. In doing so, let us not fear occasional error—theimagination is only free when fear of error is temporarily laid aside. Moreover, in thinkingabout the future, it is better to err on the side of daring, than the side of caution. One sees why the moment one begins listening to the men who are even now creatingthat future. Listen, as they describe some of the developments waiting to burst from theirlaboratories and factories. THE NEW ATLANTIS"Within fifty years," says Dr. F. N. Spiess, head of the Marine Physical Laboratory of theScripps Institution of Oceanography, "man will move onto and into the sea—occupying itand exploiting it as an integral part of his use of this planet for recreation, minerals, food,waste disposal, military and transportation operations, and, as populations grow, for actualliving space." More than two-thirds of the planets surface is covered with ocean—and of thissubmerged terrain a bare five percent is well mapped. However, this underwater land isknown to be rich with oil, gas, coal, diamonds, sulphur, cobalt, uranium, tin, phosphates andother minerals. It teems with fish and plant life. These immense riches are about to be fought over and exploited on a staggering scale.Today in the United States alone more than 600 companies, including such giants as StandardOil and Union Carbide, are readying themselves for a monumental competitive struggleunder the seas. The race will intensify year by year—with far-reaching impacts on society. Who"owns" the bottom of the ocean and the marine life that covers it? As ocean mining becomesfeasible and economically advantageous, we can expect the resource balance among nationsto shift. The Japanese already extract 10,000,000 tons of coal each year from underwatermines; tin is already being ocean-mined by Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Before longnations may go to war over patches of ocean bottom. We may also find sharp changes in therate of industrialization of what are now resource-poor nations. Technologically, novel industries will rise to process the output of the oceans. Otherswill produce sophisticated and highly expensive tools for working the sea—deep-diving
research craft, rescue submarines, electronic fish-herding equipment and the like. The rate ofobsolescence in these fields will be swift. The competitive struggle will spur everaccelerating innovation. Culturally, we can expect new words to stream rapidly into the language. "Aqua-culture"—the term for scientific cultivation of the oceans food resources—will take its placealongside "Agriculture." "Water," itself a term freighted with symbolic and emotionalassociations, will take on wholly new connotations. Along with a new vocabulary will comenew symbols in poetry, painting, film and the other arts. Representations of oceanic lifeforms will find their way into graphic and industrial design. Fashions will reflect dependenceon the ocean. New textiles, new plastics and other materials will be discovered. New drugswill be found to cure illness or alter mental states. Most important, increased reliance on the oceans for food will alter the nutrition ofmillions—a change that, itself, carries significant unknowns in its wake. What happens to theenergy level of people, to their desire for achievement, not to speak of their biochemistry,their average height and weight, their rate of maturation, their life span, their characteristicdiseases, even their psychological responses, when their society shifts from a reliance onagri- to aquaculture? The opening of the sea may also bring with it a new frontier spirit—a way of life thatoffers adventure, danger, quick riches or fame to the initial explorers. Later, as man begins tocolonize the continental shelves, and perhaps even the deeper reaches, the pioneers may wellbe followed by settlers who build artificial cities beneath the waves—work cities, sciencecities, medical cities, and play cities, complete with hospitals, hotels and homes. If all this sounds too far off, it is sobering to note that Dr. Walter L. Robb, a scientist atGeneral Electric, has already kept a hamster alive under water by enclosing it in a box that is,in effect, an artificial gill—a synthetic membrane that extracts air from the surrounding waterwhile keeping the water out. Such membranes formed the top, bottom and two sides of a boxin which the hamster was submerged in water. Without the gill, the animal would havesuffocated. With it, it was able to breathe under water. Such membranes, G.E. claims, maysome day furnish air for the occupants of underwater experimental stations. They mighteventually be built into the walls of undersea apartment houses, hotels and other structures, oreven—who knows?—into the human body itself. Indeed, the old science fiction speculations about men with surgically implanted gillsno longer seem quite so impossibly far-fetched as they once did. We may create (perhapseven breed) specialists for ocean work, men and women who are not only mentally, butphysically equipped for work, play, love and sex under the sea. Even if we do not resort tosuch dramatic measures in our haste to conquer the underwater frontier, it seems likely thatthe opening of the oceans will generate not merely new professional specialties, but new lifestyles, new ocean-oriented subcultures, and perhaps even new religious sects or mysticalcults to celebrate the seas. One need not push speculation so far, however, to recognize that the novelenvironments to which man will be exposed will, of necessity, bring with them alteredperceptions, new sensations, new sensitivities to color and form, new ways of thinking andfeeling. Moreover, the invasion of the sea, the first wave of which we shall witness longbefore the arrival of A.D. 2000, is only one of a series of closely tied scientific-technologicaltrends that are now racing forward—all of them crammed with novel social andpsychological implications. SUNLIGHT AND PERSONALITY
The conquest of the oceans links up directly with the advance toward accurate weatherprediction and, ultimately, climate control. What we call weather is largely a consequence ofthe interaction of sun, air and ocean. By monitoring ocean currents, salinity and other factors,by placing weather-watch satellites in the skies, we will greatly increase our ability toforecast weather accurately. According to Dr. Walter Orr Roberts, past president of theAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science, "We foresee bringing the entire globeunder continuous weather observation by the mid-1970s—and at reasonable cost. And weenvision, from this, vastly improved forecasting of storms, freezes, droughts, smogepisodes—with attendant opportunities to avert disaster. But we can also see lurking in thebeyond-knowledge of today an awesome potential weapon of war—the deliberatemanipulation of weather for the benefit of the few and the powerful, to the detriment of theenemy, and perhaps of the bystanders as well." In a science fiction story entitled The Weather Man, Theodore L. Thomas depicts aworld in which the central political institution is a "Weather Council." In it, representatives ofthe various nations hammer out weather policy and control peoples by adjusting climate,imposing a drought here or a storm there to enforce their edicts. We may still be a long wayfrom having such carefully calibrated control. But there is no question that the day is pastwhen man simply had to take whatever heaven deigned to give in the way of weather. In theblunt words of the American Meteorological Society: "Weather modification today is areality." This represents one of the turning points in history and provides man with a weaponthat could radically affect agriculture, transportation, communication, recreation. Unlesswielded with extreme care, however, the gift of weather control can prove mans undoing.The earths weather system is an integrated whole; a minute change at one point can touch offmassive consequences elsewhere. Even without aggressive intent, there is danger thatattempts to control a drought on one continent could trigger a tornado on another. Moreover, the unknown socio-psychological consequences of weather manipulationcould be enormous. Millions of us, for example, hunger for sunshine, as our mass migrationsto Florida, California or the Mediterranean coast indicate. We may well be able to producesunshine—or a facsimile of it—at will. The National Aeronautics and Space Administrationis studying the concept of a giant orbiting space mirror capable of reflecting the suns lightdownward on night-shrouded parts of the earth. A NASA official, George E. Mueller, hastestified before Congress that the United States will have the capacity to launch huge sun-reflecting satellites by mid-1970. (By extension, it should not be impossible to loft satellitesthat would block out sunlight over preselected regions, plunging them into at leastsemidarkness.) The present natural light-dark cycle is tied to human biological rhythms in ways thatare, as yet, unexplored. One can easily imagine the use of orbiting sun-mirrors to alter thehours of light for agricultural, industrial or even psychological reasons. For example, theintroduction of longer days into Scandinavia could have a strong influence on the culture andpersonality types now characteristic of that region. To put the matter only half-facetiously,what happens to Ingmar Bergmans brooding art when Stockholms brooding darkness islifted? Could The Seventh Seal or Winter Light have been conceived in another climate? The increasing ability to alter weather, the development of new energy sources, newmaterials (some of them almost surrealistic in their properties), new transportation means,new foods (not only from the sea, but from huge hydroponic food-growing factories)—allthese only begin to hint at the nature of the accelerating changes that lie ahead. THE VOICE OF THE DOLPHIN
In War With the Newts, Karel Capeks marvelous but little-known novel, man brings aboutthe destruction of civilization through his attempt to domesticate a variety of salamander.Today, among other things, man is learning to exploit animals and fish in ways that wouldhave made Capek smile wryly. Trained pigeons are used to identify and eliminate defectivepills from drug factory assembly lines. In the Ukraine, Soviet scientists employ a particularspecies of fish to clear the algae off the filters in pumping stations. Dolphins have beentrained to carry tools to "aquanauts" submerged off the coast of California, and to ward offsharks who approach the work zone. Others have been trained to ram submerged mines,thereby detonating them and committing suicide on mans behalf—a use that provoked aslight furor over inter-species ethics. Research into communication between man and the dolphin may prove to be extremelyuseful if, and when, man makes contact with extra-terrestrial life—a possibility that manyreputable astronomers regard as almost inevitable. In the meantime, dolphin research isyielding new data on the ways in which mans sensory apparatus differs from that of otheranimals. It suggests some of the outer limits within which the human organism operates—feelings, moods, perceptions not available to man because of his own biological make-up canbe at least analyzed or described. Existing animal species, however, are by no means all we have to work with. A numberof writers have suggested that new animal forms be bred for specialized purposes. Sir GeorgeThomson notes that "with advancing knowledge of genetics very large modifications in thewild species can no doubt be made." Arthur Clarke has written about the possibility that wecan "increase the intelligence of our domestic animals, or evolve wholly new ones with muchhigher I.Q.s than any existing now." We are also developing the capacity to control animalbehavior by remote control. Dr. Jose M. R. Delgado, in a series of experiments terrifying intheir human potential, implanted electrodes in the skull of a bull. Waving a red cape, Delgadoprovoked the animal to charge. Then, with a signal emitted from a tiny hand-held radiotransmitter, he made the beast turn aside in mid-lunge and trot docilely away. Whether we grow specialized animals to serve us or develop household robots dependsin part on the uneven race between the life sciences and the physical sciences. It may becheaper to make machines for our purposes, than to raise and train animals. Yet the biologicalsciences are developing so rapidly that the balance may well tip within our lifetimes. Indeed,the day may even come when we begin to grow our machines. THE BIOLOGICAL FACTORYRaising and training animals may be expensive, but what happens when we go down theevolutionary scale to the level of bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms? Here we canharness life in its primitive forms just as we once harnessed the horse. Today a new sciencebased on this principle is rapidly emerging and it promises to change the very nature ofindustry as we know it. "Our ancestors domesticated various plant and animal species in the prehistoric past,"says biochemist Marvin J. Johnson of the University of Wisconsin. But "microorganismswere not domesticated until very recently, primarily because man did not know of theirexistence." Today he does, and they are already used in the large-scale production ofvitamins, enzymes, antibiotics, citric acid and other useful compounds. By the year 2000, ifthe pressure for food continues to intensify, biologists will be growing microorganisms foruse as animal feed and, eventually, human food.
At Uppsala University in Sweden, I had the opportunity to discuss this with ArneTiselius, the Nobel prizewinning biochemist who is now president of the Nobel Foundationitself. "Is it conceivable," I asked, "that one day we shall create, in effect, biologicalmachines—systems that can be used for productive purposes and will be composed not ofplastic or metal parts, but of living organisms?" His answer was roundabout, but unequivocal:"We are already there. The great future of industry will come from biology. In fact, one of themost striking things about the tremendous technological development of Japan since the warhas been not only its shipbuilding, but its microbiology. Japan is now the greatest power inthe world in industry based on microbiology ... Much of their food and food industry is basedon processes in which bacteria are used. Now they produce all sorts of useful things—aminoacids, for example. In Sweden everybody now talks about the need to strengthen our positionin microbiology. "You see, one need not think in terms of bacteria and viruses alone ... The industrialprocesses, in general, are based on man-made processes. You make steel by a reduction ofiron ore with coal. Think of the plastic industries, artificial products made originally frompetroleum. Yet it is remarkable that even today, with the tremendous development ofchemistry and chemical technology, there is no single foodstuff produced industrially whichcan compete with what the farmers grow. "In this field, and in a great many fields, nature is far superior to man, even to the mostadvanced chemical engineers and researchers. Now what is the consequence of that? Whenwe gradually get to know how nature makes these things, and when we can imitate nature, wewill have processes of an entirely new kind. These will form the basis for industries of a newkind—a sort of bio-technical factory, a biological technology. "The green plants make starch with the aid of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere andthe sun. This is an extremely efficient machine ... The green leaf is a marvelous machine. Weknow a great deal more about it today than two or three years ago. But not enough to imitateit yet. There are many such machines in nature." Such processes, Tiselius continued, will beput to work. Rather than trying to synthesize products chemically, we will, in effect, growthem to specification. One might even conceive of biological components in machines—in computers, forexample. "It is quite obvious," Tiselius continued, "that computers so far are just badimitations of our brains. Once we learn more about how the brain acts, I would be surprised ifwe could not construct a sort of biological computer ... Such a computer might haveelectronic components modeled after biological components in the real brain. And at somedistant point in the future it is conceivable that biological elements themselves might be partsof the machine." Precisely such ideas have led Jean Fourastié, the French economist andplanner, to state flatly: "Man is on the path toward integrating living tissue in the processes ofphysical mechanisms ... We shall have in the near future machines constituted at one and thesame time of metal and of living substances ..." In the light of this, he says, "The human bodyitself takes on new meaning." THE PRE-DESIGNED BODYLike the geography of the planet, the human body has until now represented a fixed point inhuman experience, a "given." Today we are fast approaching the day when the body can nolonger be regarded as fixed. Man will be able, within a reasonably short period, to redesignnot merely individual bodies, but the entire human race. In 1962 Drs. J. D. Watson and F. H. C. Crick received the Nobel prize for describingthe DNA molecule. Since then advances in genetics have come tripping over one another at a
rapid pace. Molecular biology is now about to explode from the laboratories. New geneticknowledge will permit us to tinker with human heredity and manipulate the genes to createaltogether new versions of man. One of the more fantastic possibilities is that man will be able to make biologicalcarbon copies of himself. Through a process known as "cloning" it will be possible to growfrom the nucleus of an adult cell a new organism that has the same genetic characteristics ofthe person contributing the cell nucleus. The resultant human "copy" would start life with agenetic endowment identical to that of the donor, although cultural differences mightthereafter alter the personality or physical development of the clone. Cloning would make it possible for people to see themselves born anew, to fill theworld with twins of themselves. Cloning would, among other things, provide us with solidempirical evidence to help us resolve, once and for all, the ancient controversy over "naturevs. nurture" or "heredity vs. environment." The solution of this problem, through thedetermination of the role played by each, would be one of the great milestones of humanintellectual development. Whole libraries of philosophical speculation could, by a singlestroke, be rendered irrelevant. An answer to this question would open the way for speedy,qualitative advances in psychology, moral philosophy and a dozen other fields. But cloning could also create undreamed of complications for the race. There is acertain charm to the idea of Albert Einstein bequeathing copies of himself to posterity. Butwhat of Adolf Hitler? Should there be laws to regulate cloning? Nobel Laureate JoshuaLederberg, a scientist who takes his social responsibility very seriously, believes itconceivable that those most likely to replicate themselves will be those who are mostnarcissistic, and that the clones they produce will also be narcissists. Even if narcissism, however, is culturally rather than biologically transmitted, there areother eerie difficulties. Thus Lederberg raises a question as to whether human cloning, ifpermitted, might not "go critical." "I use that phrase," he told me, "in almost exactly the samesense that is involved in nuclear energy. It will go critical if there is a sufficient positiveadvantage to doing so ... This has to do with whether the efficiency of communication,particularly along educational lines, is increased as between identical genotypes or not. Thesimilarity of neurological hardware might make it easier for identical copies to transmittechnical and other insights from one generation to the next." How close is cloning? "It has already been done in amphibia," says Lederberg, "andsomebody may be doing it right now with mammals. It wouldnt surprise me if it comes outany day now. When someone will have the courage to try it in a man, I havent the foggiestidea. But I put the time scale on that anywhere from zero to fifteen years from now. Withinfifteen years." During those same fifteen years scientists will also learn how the various organs of thebody develop, and they will, no doubt, begin to experiment with various means of modifyingthem. Says Lederberg: "Things like the size of the brain and certain sensory qualities of thebrain are going to be brought under direct developmental control ... I think this is very near." It is important for laymen to understand that Lederberg is by no means a lone worrier inthe scientific community. His fears about the biological revolution are shared by many of hiscolleagues. The ethical, moral and political questions raised by the new biology simplyboggle the mind. Who shall live and who shall die? What is man? Who shall control researchinto these fields? How shall new findings be applied? Might we not unleash horrors for whichman is totally unprepared? In the opinion of many of the worlds leading scientists the clockis ticking for a "biological Hiroshima." Imagine, for example, the implications of biological breakthroughs in what might betermed "birth technology." Dr. E. S. E. Hafez, an internationally respected biologist atWashington State University, has publicly suggested, on the basis of his own astonishing
work on reproduction, that within a mere ten to fifteen years a woman will be able to buy atiny frozen embryo, take it to her doctor, have it implanted in her uterus, carry it for ninemonths, and then give birth to it as though it had been conceived in her own body. Theembryo would, in effect, be sold with a guarantee that the resultant baby would be free ofgenetic defect. The purchaser would also be told in advance the color of the babys eyes andhair, its sex, its probable size at maturity and its probable IQ. Indeed, it will be possible at some point to do away with the female uterus altogether.Babies will be conceived, nurtured and raised to maturity outside the human body. It isclearly only a matter of years before the work begun by Dr. Daniele Petrucci in Bologna andother scientists in the United States and the Soviet Union, makes it possible for women tohave babies without the discomfort of pregnancy. The potential applications of such discoveries raise memories of Brave New World andAstounding Science Fiction. Thus Dr. Hafez, in a sweep of his imagination, suggests thatfertilized human eggs might be useful in the colonization of the planets. Instead of shippingadults to Mars, we could ship a shoebox full of such cells and grow them into an entire city-size population of humans. "When you consider how much it costs in fuel to lift every poundoff the launch pad," Dr. Hafez observes, "why send full-grown men and women aboard spaceships? Instead, why not ship tiny embryos, in the care of a competent biologist ... Weminiaturize other spacecraft components. Why not the passengers?" Long before such developments occur in outer space, however, the impact of the newbirth technology will strike home on earth, splintering our traditional notions of sexuality,motherhood, love, child-rearing, and education. Discussions about the future of the familythat deal only with The Pill overlook the biological witches brew now seething in thelaboratories. The moral and emotional choices that will confront us in the coming decades aremind-staggering. A fierce controversy is already raging today among biologists over the problems andethical issues arising out of eugenics. Should we try to breed a better race? If so, exactly whatis "better?" And who is to decide? Such questions are not entirely new. Yet the techniquessoon to be available smash the traditional limits of the argument. We can now imagineremaking the human race not as a farmer slowly and laboriously "breeds up" his herd, but asan artist might, employing a brilliant range of unfamiliar colors, shapes and forms. Not far from Route 80, outside the little town of Hazard, Kentucky, is a placepicturesquely known as Valley of Troublesome Creek. In this tiny backwoods communitylives a family whose members, for generations, have been marked by a strange anomaly: blueskin. According to Dr. Madison Cawein of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine,who tracked the family down and traced its story, the blue-skinned people seem perfectlynormal in other respects. Their unusual color is caused by a rare enzyme deficiency that hasbeen passed from one generation to the next. Given our new, fast-accumulating knowledge of genetics, we shall be able to breedwhole new races of blue people—or, for that matter, green, purple or orange. In a world stillsuffering from the moral lesion of racism, this is a thought to be conjured with. Should westrive for a world in which all people share the same skin color? If we want that, we shall nodoubt have the technical means for bringing it about. Or should we, instead, work towardeven greater diversity than now exists? What happens to the entire concept of race? Tostandards of physical beauty? To notions of superiority or inferiority? We are hurtling toward the time when we will be able to breed both super- and sub-races. As Theodore J. Gordon put it in The Future, "Given the ability to tailor the race, Iwonder if we would "create all men equal, or would we choose to manufacture apartheid?Might the races of the future be: a superior group, the DNA controllers; the humble servants;
special athletes for the games; research scientists with 200 IQ and diminutive bodies ..." Weshall have the power to produce races of morons or of mathematical savants. We shall also be able to breed babies with supernormal vision or hearing, supernormalability to detect changes in odor, or supernormal muscular or musical skills. We will be ableto create sexual superathletes, girls with super-mammaries (and perhaps more or less than thestandard two), and countless other varieties of the previously monomorphic human being. Ultimately, the problems are not scientific or technical, but ethical and political.Choice—and the criteria for choice—will be critical. The eminent science fiction authorWilliam Tenn once mused about the possibilities of genetic manipulation and the difficultiesof choice. "Assuming hopefully for the moment that no dictator, self-righteous planningboard or omnipotent black box is going to make genetic selections for the coming generation,then who or what is? Not parents, certainly ..." he said, "theyll take the problem to theirfriendly neighborhood Certified Gene Architect. "It seems inevitable to me that there will also be competitive schools of geneticarchitecture ... the Functionalists will persuade parents to produce babies fitted for the presentneeds of society; the Futurists will suggest children who will have a niche in the culture as itwill have evolved in twenty years; the Romantics will insist that each child be bred with atleast one outstanding talent; and the Naturalists will advise the production of individuals sobalanced genetically as to be in almost perfect equilibrium ... Human body styles, like humanclothing styles, will become outré, or à la mode as the genetic couturiers who designed themcome into and out of vogue." Buried behind this tongue-in-cheek are serious issues, made more profound by theimmensity of the possibilities—some of them so grotesque that they appear to leap at us fromthe canvases of Hieronymus Bosch. Mention was made earlier of the idea of breeding menwith gills or implanting gills in them for efficiency in underwater environments. At a meetingof world renowned biologists in London, J. B. S. Haldane began to expatiate about thepossibility of creating new, far-out forms of man for space exploration. "The most obviousabnormalities in extra-terrestrial environments," Haldane observed, "are differences ingravitation, temperature, air pressure, air composition, and radiation ... Clearly a gibbon isbetter preadapted than a man for life in a low gravitational field, such as that of a space ship,an asteroid, or perhaps even the moon. A platyrrhine with a prehensile tail is even more so.Gene grafting may make it possible to incorporate such features into the human stocks." While the scientists at this meeting devoted much of their attention to the moralconsequences and perils of the biological revolution, no one challenged Haldanes suggestionthat we shall someday make men with tails if we want them. Indeed, Lederberg merelyobserved that there might well be non-genetic ways to accomplish the same ends more easily."We are going to modify man experimentally through physiological and embryologicalalterations, and by the substitution of machines for his parts," Lederberg declared. "If wewant a man without legs, we dont have to breed him, we can chop them off; if we want aman with a tail, we will find a way of grafting it on to him." At another meeting of scientists and scholars, Dr. Robert Sinsheimer, a Caltechbiophysicist, put the challenge squarely: "How will you choose to intervene in the ancient designs of nature for man? Would youlike to control the sex of your offspring? It will be as you wish. Would you like your son tobe six feet tall—seven feet? Eight feet? What troubles you?—allergy, obesity, arthritic pain?These will be easily handled. For cancer, diabetes, phenylketonuria there will be genetictherapy. The appropriate DNA will be provided in the appropriate dose. Viral and microbialdisease will be easily met. Even the timeless patterns of growth and maturity and aging willbe subject to our design. We know of no intrinsic limits to the life span. How long would youlike to live?"
Lest his audience mistake him, Sinsheimer asked: "Do these projections sound likeLSD fantasies, or the view in a distorted mirror? None transcends the potential of what wenow know. They may not be developed in the way one might now anticipate, but they arefeasible, they can be brought to reality, and sooner rather than later." Not only can such wonders be brought to reality, but the odds are they will. Despiteprofound ethical questions about whether they should, the fact remains that scientificcuriosity is, itself, one of the most powerful driving forces in our society. In the words of Dr.Rollin D. Hotchkiss of the Rockefeller Institute: "Many of us feel instinctive revulsion at thehazards of meddling with the finely balanced and far-reaching systems that make anindividual what he is. Yet I believe it will surely be done or attempted. The pathway will bebuilt from a combination of altruism, private profit and ignorance." To this list, worse yet, hemight have added political conflict and bland unconcern. Thus Dr. A. Neyfakh, chief of theresearch laboratory of the Institute of Development Biology of the Soviet Academy ofSciences, predicts with a frightening lack of anxiety that the world will soon witness agenetic equivalent of the arms race. He bases his argument on the notion that the capitalistpowers are engaged in a "struggle for brains." To make up for the brain drain, one or anotherof the "reactionary governments" will be "compelled" to employ genetic engineering toincrease its output of geniuses and gifted individuals. Since this will occur "regardless of theirintention," an international genetics race is inevitable. And this being so, he implies, theSoviet Union ought to be ready to jump the gun. Criticized by the Soviet philosopher A. Petropavlovsky for his seeming willingness,even enthusiasm, to participate in such a race, Neyfakh shrugged aside the horrors that mightbe unleashed by hasty application of the new biology, replying merely that the advance ofscience is, and ought to be, unstoppable. If Neyfakhs political logic leaves something to, bedesired, his appeal to cold war passions as a justification for genetic tinkering is terrifying. In short, it is safe to say that, unless specific counter-measures are taken, if somethingcan be done, someone, somewhere will do it. The nature of what can and will be doneexceeds anything that man is as yet psychologically or morally prepared to live with. THE TRANSIENT ORGANWe steadfastly refuse to face such facts. We avoid them by stubbornly refusing to recognizethe speed of change. It makes us feel better to defer the future. Even those closest to thecutting edge of scientific research can scarcely believe the reality. Even they routinelyunderestimate the speed at which the future is breaking on our shores. Thus Dr. Richard J.Cleveland, speaking before a conference of organ transplant specialists, announced inJanuary, 1967, that the first human heart transplant operation will occur "within five years."Yet before the same year was out Dr. Christiaan Barnard had operated on a fifty-five-year-oldgrocer named Louis Washkansky, and a staccato sequence of heart transplant operationsexploded like a string of firecrackers into the worlds awareness. In the meantime, successrates are rising steadily in kidney transplants. Successful liver, pancreas and ovary transplantsare also reported. Such accelerating medical advances must compel profound changes in our ways ofthinking, as well as our way of caring for the sick. Startling new legal, ethical andphilosophical issues arise. What, for instance, is death? Does death occur when the heartstops beating, as we have traditionally believed? Or does it occur when the brain stopsfunctioning? Hospitals are becoming more and more familiar with cases of patients kept alivethrough advanced medical techniques, but doomed to exist as unconscious vegetables. What
are the ethics of condemning such a person to death to obtain a healthy organ needed fortransplant to save the life of a person with a better prognosis? Lacking guidelines or precedents, we flounder over the moral and legal questions.Ghoulish rumors race through the medical community. The New York Times andKomsomolskaya Pravda both speculate about the possibility of "future murder ringssupplying healthy organs for black-market surgeons whose patients are unwilling to waituntil natural sources have supplied the heart or liver or pancreas they need." In Washington,the National Academy of Sciences, backed by a grant from the Russell Sage Foundation,begins a study of social policy issues springing from advances in the life sciences. AtStanford, a symposium, also funded by Russell Sage, examines methods for setting uptransplant organ banks, the economics of an organ market, and evidences of class or racialdiscrimination in organ availability. The possibility of cannibalizing bodies or corpses for usable transplant organs, grisly asit is, will serve to accelerate further the pace of change by lending urgency to research in thefield of artificial organs—plastic or electronic substitutes for the heart or liver or spleen.(Eventually, even these may be made unnecessary when we learn how to regenerate damagedorgans or severed limbs, growing new ones as the lizard now grows a tail.) The drive to develop spare parts for failing human bodies will be stepped up as demandintensifies. The development of an economical artificial heart, Professor Lederberg says, "isonly a few transient failures away." Professor R. M. Kenedi of the bio-engineering group atthe University of Strathclyde in Glasgow believes that "by 1984, artificial replacements fortissues and organs may well have become commonplace." For some organs, this date is, infact, conservative. Already more than 13,000 cardiac patients in the United States—includinga Supreme Court justice—are alive because they carry, stitched into their chest cavity, a tiny"pacemaker"—a device that sends pulses of electricity to activate the heart.* Another 10,000 pioneers are already equipped with artificial heart valves made ofdacron mesh. Implantable hearing aids, artificial kidneys, arteries, hip joints, lungs, eyesockets and other parts are all in various stages of early development. We shall, before manydecades are past, implant tiny, aspirin-sized sensors in the body to monitor blood pressure,pulse, respiration and other functions, and tiny transmitters to emit a signal when somethinggoes wrong. Such signals will feed into giant diagnostic computer centers upon which themedicine of the future will be based. Some of us will also carry a tiny platinum plate and adime-sized "stimulator" attached to the spine. By turning a midget "radio" on and off we willbe able to activate the stimulator and kill pain. Initial work on these pain-control mechanismsis already under way at the Case Institute of Technology. Push-button pain killers are alreadybeing used by certain cardiac patients. Such developments will lead to vast new bio-engineering industries, chains of medical-electronic repair stations, new technical professions and a reorganization of the entire healthsystem. They will change life expectancy, shatter insurance company life tables, and bringabout important shifts in the uman outlook. Surgery will be less frightening to the averageindividual; implantation routine. The human body will come to be seen as modular. Throughapplication of the modular principle—preservation of the whole through systematicreplacement of transient components—we may add two or three decades to the average lifespan of the population. Unless, however, we develop far more advanced understanding of thebrain than we now have, this could lead to one of the greatest ironies in history. Sir GeorgePickering, Regius professor of medicine at Oxford, has warned that unless we watch out,"those with senile brains will form an ever increasing fraction of the inhabitants of the earth. Ifind this," he added rather unnecessarily, "a terrifying prospect." Just such terrifyingprospects will drive us toward more accelerated research into the brain—which, in turn, willgenerate still further radical changes in the society.
Today we struggle to make heart valves or artificial plumbing that imitate the originalthey are designed to replace. We strive for functional equivalence. Once we have masteredthe basic problems, however, we shall not merely install plastic aortas in people because theiroriginal aorta is about to fail. We shall install specially-designed parts that are better than theoriginal, and then we shall move on to install parts that provide the user with capabilities thatwere absent in the first place. Just as genetic engineering holds out the promise of producing"super-people," so, too, does organ technology suggest the possibility of track stars withextra-capacity lungs or hearts; sculptors with a neural device that intensifies sensitivity totexture; lovers with sex-intensifying neural machinery. In short, we shall no longer implantmerely to save a life, but to enhance it—to make possible the achievement of moods, states,conditions or ecstasies that are presently beyond us. Under these circumstances, what happens to our age-old definitions of "human-ness?"How will it feel to be part protoplasm and part transistor? Exactly what possibilities will itopen? What limitations will it place on work, play, sex, intellectual or aesthetic responses?What happens to the mind when the body is changed? Questions like these cannot be longdeferred, for advanced fusions of man and machine—called "Cyborgs"—are closer than mostpeople suspect. * At a major Midwest hospital not long ago a patient appeared at the emergency room in the middle ofthe night. He was hiccupping violently, sixty times a minute. The patient, it turned out, was an early pacemakerwearer. A fast-thinking resident realized what had happened: a pacemaker wire, instead of stimulating the heart,had broken loose and become lodged in the diaphragm. Its jolts of electricity were causing the hiccupping.Acting swiftly, the resident inserted a needle into the patients chest near the pacemaker, ran a wire out from theneedle and grounded it to the hospital plumbing. The hiccupping stopped, giving doctors a chance to operateand reposition the faulty wire. A foretaste of tomorrows medicine? THE CYBORGS AMONG USToday the man with a pacemaker or a plastic aorta is still recognizably a man. The inanimatepart of his body is still relatively unimportant in terms of his personality and consciousness.But as the proportion of machine components rises, what happens to his awareness of self, hisinner experience? If we assume that the brain is the seat of consciousness and intelligence,and that no other part of the body affects personality or self very much, then it is possible toconceive of a disembodied brain—a brain without arms, legs, spinal cord or otherequipment—as a self, a personality, an embodiment of awareness. It may then becomepossible to combine the human brain with a whole set of artificial sensors, receptors andeffectors, and to call that tangle of wires and plastic a human being. All this may seem to resemble medieval speculation about the number of angels whocan pirouette on a pinhead, yet the first small steps toward some form of man-machinesymbiosis are already being taken. Moreover, they are being taken not by a lone madscientist, but by thousands of highly trained engineers, mathematicians, biologists, surgeons,chemists, neurologists and communications specialists. Dr. W. G. Walters mechanical "tortoises" are machines that behave as though they hadbeen psychologically conditioned. These tortoises were early specimens of a growing breedof robots ranging from the "Perceptron" which could learn (and even generalize) to the morerecent "Wanderer," a robot capable of exploring an area, building up in its memory an"image" of the terrain, and able even to indulge in certain operations comparable, at least insome respects, to "contemplative speculation" and "fantasy." Experiments by Ross Ashby, H.D. Block, Frank Rosenblatt and others demonstrate that machines can learn from theirmistakes, improve their performance, and, in certain limited kinds of learning, outstrip human
students. Says Block, professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University: "I dont thinktheres a task you can name that a machine cant do—in principle. If you can define a task anda human can do it, then a machine can, at least in theory, also do it. The converse, however, isnot true." Intelligence and creativity, it would appear, are not a human monopoly. Despite setbacks and difficulties, the roboteers are moving forward. Recently theyenjoyed a collective laugh at the expense of one of the leading critics of the robot-builders, aformer RAND Corporation computer specialist named Hubert L. Dreyfus. Arguing thatcomputers would never be able to match human intelligence, Dreyfus wrote a lengthy paperheaping vitriolic scorn on those who disagreed with him. Among other things, he declared,"No chess program can play even amateur chess." In context, he appeared to be saying thatnone ever would. Less than two years later, a graduate student at MIT, Richard Greenblatt,wrote a chess-playing computer program, challenged Dreyfus to a match, and had theimmense satisfaction of watching the computer annihilate Dreyfus to the cheers of the"artificial intelligence" researchers. In a quite different field of robotology there is progress, too. Technicians at Disneylandhave created extremely life-like computer-controlled humanoids capable of moving theirarms and legs, grimacing, smiling, glowering, simulating fear, joy and a wide range of otheremotions. Built of clear plastic that, according to one reporter, "does everything but bleed,"the robots chase girls, play music, fire pistols, and so closely resemble human forms thatvisitors routinely shriek with fear, flinch and otherwise react as though they were dealingwith real human beings. The purposes to which these robots are put may seem trivial, but thetechnology on which they are based is highly sophisticated. It depends heavily on knowledgeacquired from the space program—and this knowledge is accumulating rapidly. There appears to be no reason, in principle, why we cannot go forward from thesepresent primitive and trivial robots to build humanoid machines capable of extremely variedbehavior, capable even of "human" error and seemingly random choice—in short, to makethem behaviorally indistinguishable from humans except by means of highly sophisticated orelaborate tests. At that point we shall face the novel sensation of trying to determine whetherthe smiling, assured humanoid behind the airline reservation counter is a pretty girl or acarefully wired robot.* The likelihood, of course, is that she will be both. The thrust toward some form of man-machine symbiosis is furthered by our increasingingenuity in communicating with machines. A great deal of much-publicized work is beingdone to facilitate the interaction of men and computers. But quite apart from this, Russian andAmerican scientists have both been experimenting with the placement or implantation ofdetectors that pick up signals from the nerve ends at the stub of an amputated limb. Thesesignals are then amplified and used to activate an artificial limb, thereby making a machinedirectly and sensitively responsive to the nervous system of a human being. The human neednot "think out" his desires; even involuntary impulses are transmittable. The responsivebehavior of the machine is as automatic as the behavior of ones own hand, eye or leg. In Flight to Arras, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, novelist, poet and pioneer aviator,described buckling himself into the seat of a fighter plane during World War II. "All thiscomplication of oxygen tubes, heating equipment; these speaking tubes that form theintercom running between the members of the crew. This mask through which I breathe. Iam attached to the plane by a rubber tube as indispensable as an umbilical cord. Organs havebeen added to my being, and they seem to intervene between me and my heart ..." We havecome far since those distant days. Space biology is marching irresistibly toward the day whenthe astronaut will not merely be buckled into his capsule, but become a part of it in the fullsymbiotic sense of the phrase.
One aim is to make the craft itself a wholly self-sufficient universe, in which algae isgrown for food, water is recovered from body waste, air is recycled to purge it of theammonia entering the atmosphere from urine, etc. In this totally enclosed fully regenerativeworld, the human being becomes an integral part of an on-going micro-ecological processwhirling through the vastnesses of space. Thus Theodore Cordon, author of The Future andhimself a leading space engineer, writes: "Perhaps it would be simpler to provide life supportin the form of machines that plug into the astronaut. He could be fed intravenously using aliquid food compactly stored in a remote pressurized tank. Perhaps direct processing of bodyliquid wastes, and conversion to water, could be accomplished by a new type of artificialkidney built in as part of the spaceship. Perhaps sleep could be induced electronically ... tolower his metabolism ..." Und so weiter. One after another, the body functions of the humanbecome interwoven with, dependent on, and part of, the machine functions of the capsule. The ultimate extension of such work, however, is not necessarily to be found in theouter reaches of space; it may well become a common part of everyday life here on themother planet. This is the direct link-up of the human brain—stripped of its supportingphysical structures—with the computer. Indeed, it may be that the biological component ofthe supercomputers of the future may be massed human brains. The possibility of enhancinghuman (and machine) intelligence by linking them together organically opens enormous andexciting probabilities, so exciting that Dr. R. M. Page, director of the Naval ResearchLaboratory in Washington, has publicly discussed the feasibility of a system in which humanthoughts are fed automatically into the storage unit of a computer to form the basis formachine decisionmaking. Participants in a RAND Corporation study conducted several yearsago were asked when this development might occur. Answers ranged from as soon as 1990 to"never." But the median date given was 2020—well within the lifetime of todays teen-agers. In the meantime, research from countless sources contributes toward the eventualsymbiosis. In one of the most fascinating, frightening and intellectually provocativeexperiments ever recorded, Professor Robert White, director of neurosurgery at theMetropolitan General Hospital in Cleveland, has given evidence that the brain can be isolatedfrom its body and kept alive after the "death" of the rest of the organism. The experiment,described in a brilliant article by Oriana Fallaci, saw a team of neurosurgeons cut the brainout of a rhesus monkey, discard the body, then hook the brains carotid arteries up to anothermonkey, whose blood then continued to bathe the disembodied organ, keeping it alive. Said one of the members of the medical team, Dr. Leo Massopust, a neurophysiologist:"The brain activity is largely better than when the brain had a body ... No doubt about it. Ieven suspect that without his senses, he can think more quickly. What kind of thinking, Idont know. I guess he is primarily a memory, a repository for information stored when behad his flesh; he cannot develop further because he no longer has the nourishment ofexperience. Yet this, too, is a new experience." The brain survived for five hours. It could have lasted much longer, had it served thepurposes of research. Professor White has successfully kept other brains alive for days, usingmachinery, rather than a living monkey, to keep the brain washed with blood. "I dont thinkwe have reached the stage," he told Miss Fallaci, "where you can turn men into robots,obedient sheep. Yet ... it could happen, it isnt impossible. If you consider that we can transferthe head of a man onto the trunk of another man, if you consider that we can isolate the brainof a man and make it work without its body ... To me, there is no longer any gap betweenscience fiction and science ... We could keep Einsteins brain alive and make it functionnormally." Not only, Professor White implies, can we transfer the head of one man to theshoulders of another, not only can we keep a head or a brain "alive" and functioning, but itcan all be done, with "existing techniques." Indeed, he declares, "The Japanese will be the
first to [keep an isolated human head alive]. I will not, because I havent resolved as yet thisdilemma: Is it right or not?" A devout Catholic, Dr. White is deeply troubled by thephilosophical and moral implications of his work. As the brain surgeons and the neurologists probe further, as the bio-engineers and themathematicians, the communications experts and robot-builders become more sophisticated,as the space men and their capsules grow closer and closer to one another, as machines beginto embody biological components and men come bristling with sensors and mechanicalorgans, the ultimate symbiosis approaches. The work converges. Yet the greatest marvel ofall is not organ transplantation or symbiosis or underwater engineering. It is not technology,nor science itself. The greatest and most dangerous marvel of all is the complacent past-orientation of therace, its unwillingness to confront the reality of acceleration. Thus man moves swiftly into anunexplored universe, into a totally new stage of eco-technological development, firmlyconvinced that "human nature is eternal" or that "stability will return." He stumbles into themost violent revolution in human history muttering, in the words of one famous, thoughmyopic sociologist, that "the processes of modernization ... have been more or lesscompleted." He simply refuses to imagine the future. * This raises a number of half-amusing, half-serious problems about the relationships between men andmachines, including emotional and even sexual relationships. Professor Block at Cornell speculates that man-machine sexual relationships may not be too far distant. Pointing out that men often develop emotionalattachments to the machines they use, he suggests that we shall have to give attention to the "ethical" questionsarising from our treatment of "these mechanical objects of our affection and passion." A serious inquiry intothese issues is to be found in an article by Roland Puccetti in the British Journal of the Philosophy of Science,18 (1967) 39-51. THE DENIAL OF CHANGEIn 1865 a newspaper editor told his readers that "Well-informed people know that it isimpossible to transmit the voice over wires and that, were it possible to do so, the thingwould be of no practical value." Barely a decade later, the telephone erupted from Mr. Bellslaboratory and changed the world. On the very day that the Wright brothers took wing, newspapers refused to report theevent because their sober, solid, feet-on-the-ground editors simply could not bring themselvesto believe it had happened. After all, a famous American astronomer, Simon Newcomb, hadnot long before assured the world that "No possible combination of known substances,known forms of machinery and known forms of force, can be united in a practical machineby which man shall fly long distances." Not long after this, another expert announced publicly that it was "nothing less thanfeeblemindedness to expect anything to come of the horseless carriage movement." Six yearslater the one-millionth Ford rolled off an assembly line. And then there was the greatRutherford, himself, the discoverer of the atom, who said in 1933 that the energy in theatoms nucleus would never be released. Nine years later: the first chain reaction. Again and again the human brain—including the first class scientific brain—hasblinded itself to the novel possibilities of the future, has narrowed its field of concern to gainmomentary reassurance, only to be rudely shaken by the accelerative thrust. This is not to imply that all the scientific or technological advances so far discussedwill necessarily materialize. Still less does it imply that they will all occur between now andthe turn of the century. Some will, no doubt, die a-borning. Some may represent blind alleys.Others will succeed in the lab, but turn out to be impractical for one reason or another. Yet all
this is unimportant. For even if none of these developments occur, others, perhaps even moreunsettling, will. We have scarcely touched on the computer revolution and the far-ramifying changesthat must follow in its churning wake. We have barely mentioned the implications of thethrust into outer space, an adventure that could, before the new millennium arrives, change allour lives and attitudes in radical and as yet unpredicted ways. (What would happen if anastronaut or space vehicle returned to earth contaminated with some fast-multiplying, death-dealing microorganism?) We have said nothing about the laser, the holograph, the powerfulnew instruments of personal and mass communication, the new technologies of crime andespionage, new forms of transport and construction, the developing horror of chemical andbacteriological warfare techniques, the radiant promise of solar energy, the coming discoveryof life in a test tube, the startling new tools and techniques for education, and an endless listof other fields in which high-impact changes lie just ahead. In the coming decades, advances in all these fields will fire off like a series of rocketscarrying us out of the past, plunging us deeper into the new society. Nor will this new societyquickly settle into a steady state. It, too, will quiver and crack and roar as it suffers jolt afterjolt of high-energy change. For the individual who wishes to live in his time, to be a part ofthe future, the super-industrial revolution offers no surcease from change. It offers no returnto the familiar past. It offers only the highly combustible mixture of transience and novelty. This massive injection of speed and novelty into the fabric of society will force us notmerely to cope more rapidly with familiar situations, events and moral dilemmas, but to copeat a progressively faster rate with situations that are, for us, decidedly unfamiliar, "first-time"situations, strange, irregular, unpredictable. This will significantly alter the balance that prevails in any society between the familiarand unfamiliar elements in the daily life of its people, between the routine and non-routine,the predictable and the unpredictable. The relationship between these two kinds of daily-lifeelements can be called the "novelty ratio" of the society, and as the level of newness ornovelty rises, less and less of life appears subject to our routine forms of coping behavior.More and more, there is a growing weariness and wariness, a pall of pessimism, a decline inour sense of mastery. More and more, the environment comes to seem chaotic, beyondhuman control. Thus two great social forces converge: the relentless movement toward transience isreinforced and made more potentially dangerous by a rise in the novelty ratio. Nor, as weshall next see, is this novelty to be found solely in the technological arrangements of thesociety-to-be. In its social arrangements, too, we can anticipate the unprecedented, theunfamiliar, the bizarre.
Chapter 10 THE EXPERIENCE MAKERSThe year 2000 is closer to us in time than the great depression, yet the worlds economists,traumatized by that historic disaster, remain frozen in the attitudes of the past. Economists,even those who talk the language of revolution, are peculiarly conservative creatures. If itwere possible to pry from their brains their collective image of the economy of, say, the year2025, it would look very much like that of 1970—only more so. Conditioned to think in straight lines, economists have great difficulty imaginingalternatives to communism and capitalism. They see in the growth of large-scale organizationnothing more than a linear expansion of old-fashioned bureaucracy. They see technologicaladvance as a simple, non-revolutionary extension of the known. Born of scarcity, trained tothink in terms of limited resources, they can hardly conceive of a society in which mansbasic material wants have been satisfied. One reason for their lack of imagination is that when they think about technologicaladvance, they concentrate solely on the means of economic activity. Yet the super-industrialrevolution challenges the ends as well. It threatens to alter not merely the "how" ofproduction but the "why." It will, in short, transform the very purposes of economic activity. Before such an upheaval, even the most sophisticated tools of todays economists arehelpless. Input-output tables, econometric models—the whole paraphernalia of analysis thateconomists employ simply do not come to grips with the external forces—political, socialand ethical—that will transform economic life in the decades before us. What does"productivity" or "efficiency" mean in a society that places a high value on psychicfulfillment? What happens to an economy when, as is likely, the entire concept of property isreduced to meaninglessness? How are economies likely to be affected by the rise of supra-national planning, taxing and regulatory agencies or by a kind of dialectical return to "cottageindustry" based on the most advanced cybernetic technologies? Most important, whathappens when "no growth" replaces "growth" as an economic objective, when GNP ceases tobe the holy grail? Only by stepping outside the framework of orthodox economic thought and examiningthese possibilities can we begin to prepare for tomorrow. And among these, none is morecentral than the shift in values that is likely to accompany the super-industrial revolution. Under conditions of scarcity, men struggle to meet their immediate material needs.Today under more affluent conditions, we are reorganizing the economy to deal with a newlevel of human needs. From a system designed to provide material satisfaction, we arerapidly creating an economy geared to the provision of psychic gratification. This process of"psychologization," one of the central themes of the super-industrial revolution, has been allbut overlooked by the economists. Yet it will result in a novel, surprise-filled economy unlikeany man has ever experienced. The issues raised by it will reduce the great conflict of thetwentieth century, the conflict between capitalism and communism, to comparativeinsignificance. For these issues sweep far beyond economic or political dogma. They involve,as we shall see, nothing less than sanity, the human organisms ability to distinguish illusionfrom reality. THE PSYCHIC CARE-MIX
Much excitement has accompanied the discovery that once a techno-society reaches a certainstage of industrial development, it begins to shift energies into the production of services, asdistinct from goods. Many experts see in the services the wave of the future. They suggestthat manufacturing will soon be outstripped by service activity in all the industrial nations—aprophecy already on its way toward fulfillment. What the economists, however, have not done, is to ask the obvious question. Wheredoes the economy go next? After the services, what? The high technology nations must, in coming years, direct vast resources torehabilitating their physical environment and improving what has come to be called "thequality of life." The fight against pollution, aesthetic blight, crowding, noise and dirt willclearly absorb tremendous energies. But, in addition to the provision of these public goods,we can also anticipate a subtle change in the character of production for private use. The very excitement aroused by the mushrooming growth of the service sector hasdiverted professional attention from another shift that will deeply affect both goods andservices in the future. It is this shift that will lead to the next forward movement of theeconomy, the growth of a strange new sector based on what can only be called the"experience industries." For the key to the post-service economy lies in the psychologizationof all production, beginning with manufacture. One of the curious facts about production in all the techno-societies today, andespecially the United States, is that goods are increasingly designed to yield psychological"extras" for the consumer. The manufacturer adds a "psychic load" to his basic product, andthe consumer gladly pays for this intangible benefit. A classic example is the case of the appliance or auto manufacturer who adds buttons,knobs or dials to the control panel or dashboard, even when these have seemingly nosignificance. The manufacturer has learned that increasing the number of gadgets, up to apoint, gives the operator of the machine the sense of controlling a more complex device, andhence a feeling of increased mastery. This psychological payoff is designed into the product. Conversely, pains are taken not to deprive the consumer of an existing psychologicalbenefit. Thus a large American food company proudly launched a labor-saving, add-water-only cake mix. The company was amazed when women rejected the product in favor ofmixes that require extra labor—the addition of an egg along with the water. By insertingpowdered egg in the factory, the company had oversimplified the task of the housewife,depriving her of the sense of creatively participating in the cake-baking process. Thepowdered egg was hastily eliminated, and women went happily back to cracking their owneggs. Once again a product was modified to provide a psychic benefit. Examples like these can be multiplied endlessly in almost any major industry, fromsoap and cigarettes to dishwashers and diet colas. According to Dr. Emanuel Demby,president of Motivational Programmers, Incorporated, a research firm employed in the UnitedStates and Europe by such blue-chip corporations as General Electric, Caltex and IBM, "Theengineering of psychological factors into manufactured goods will be a hallmark ofproduction in the future—not only in consumer goods, but in industrial hardware. "Even the big cranes and derricks built today embody this principle. Their cabs arestreamlined, slick, like something out of the twenty-first century. Caterpillar, InternationalHarvester, Ferguson—all of them. Why? These mechanical monsters dont dig better or hoistbetter because the cab is aesthetically improved. But the contractor who buys them likes itbetter. The men who work on them like it better. The contractors customers like it better. Soeven the manufacturers of earthmoving equipment begin to pay attention to non-utilitarian—i.e., psychological—factors." Beyond this, Demby asserts, manufacturers are devoting more attention to reducingtensions that accompany the use of certain products. Manufacturers of sanitary napkins, for
example, know that women have a fear of stopping up the toilet when disposing of them. "Anew product has been developed," he says, "that instantly dissolves on contact with water. Itdoesnt perform its basic function any better. But it relieves some of the anxiety that wentwith it. This is psychological engineering if ever there was any!" Affluent consumers are willing and able to pay for such niceties. As disposable incomerises, they become progressively less concerned with price, progressively more insistent onwhat they call "quality." For many products quality can still be measured in the traditionalterms of workmanship, durability and materials. But for a fast-growing class of products,such differences are virtually undetectable. Blindfolded, the consumer cannot distinguishBrand A from Brand B. Nevertheless, she often argues fiercely that one is superior to another. This paradox vanishes once the psychic component of production is taken into account.For even when they are otherwise identical, there are likely to be marked psychologicaldifferences between one product and another. Advertisers strive to stamp each product withits own distinct image. These images are functional: they fill a need on the part of theconsumer. The need is psychological, however, rather than utilitarian in the ordinary sense.Thus we find that the term "quality" increasingly refers to the ambience, the statusassociations—in effect, the psychological connotations of the product. As more and more of the basic material needs of the consumer are met, it is stronglypredictable that even more economic energy will be directed at meeting the consumerssubtle, varied and quite personal needs for beauty, prestige, individuation, and sensorydelight. The manufacturing sector will channel ever greater resources into the consciousdesign of psychological distinctions and gratifications. The psychic component of goodsproduction will assume increasing importance. "SERVING WENCHES" IN THE SKYThis, however, is only the first step toward the psychologization of the economy. The nextstep will be the expansion of the psychic component of the services. Here, again, we are already moving in the predictable direction, as a glance at air traveldemonstrates. Once flying was simply a matter of getting from here to there. Before long, theairlines began to compete on the basis of pretty stewardesses, food, luxurious surroundings,and in-flight movies. Trans-World Airlines recently carried this process one step further byoffering what it called "foreign accent" flights between major American cities. The TWA passenger may now choose a jet on which the food, the music, themagazines, the movies, and the stewardess miniskirt are all French. He may choose a"Roman" flight on which the girls wear togas. He may opt for a "Manhattan Penthouse"flight. Or he may select the "Olde English" flight on which the girls are called "servingwenches" and the decor supposedly suggests that of an English pub. It is clear that TWA is no longer selling transportation, as such, but a carefully designedpsychological package as well. We can expect the airlines before long to make use of lightsand multi-media projections to create total, but temporary, environments providing thepassenger with something approaching a theatrical experience. The experience may, in fact, soon go beyond theater. British Overseas AirwaysCorporation recently pointed a wavering finger at the future when it announced a plan toprovide unmarried American male passengers with "scientifically chosen" blind dates inLondon. In the event the computer-selected date failed to show up, an alternate would beprovided. Moreover, a party would be arranged to which "several additional Londoners ofboth sexes of varying ages" would be invited so that the traveler, who would also be given atour of discotheques and restaurants, would under no circumstances be alone. The program,
called "The Beautiful Singles of London," was abruptly called off when the government-owned airline came under Parliamentary criticism. Nevertheless, we can anticipate furthercolorful attempts to paint a psychic coating on many consumer service fields, includingretailing. Anyone who has strolled through Newport Center, an incredibly lavish new shoppingplaza in Newport Beach, California, cannot fail to be impressed by the attention paid by itsdesigners to aesthetic and psychological factors. Tall white arches and columns outlinedagainst a blue sky, fountains, statues, carefully planned illumination, a pop art playground,and an enormous Japanese wind-bell are all used to create a mood of casual elegance for theshopper. It is not merely the affluence of the surroundings, but their programmedpleasantness that makes shopping there a quite memorable experience. One can anticipatefantastic variations and elaborations of the same principles in the planning of retail stores inthe future. We shall go far beyond any "functional" necessity, turning the service, whether itis shopping, dining, or having ones hair cut, into a pre-fabricated experience. We shall watchmovies or listen to chamber music as we have our hair cut, and the mechanical bowl that fitsover the skull of a woman in the beauty parlor will do more than simply dry her hair. Bydirecting electronic waves to her brain, it may, quite literally, tickle her fancy. Bankers and brokers, real estate and insurance companies will employ the mostcarefully chosen decor, music, closed circuit color television, engineered tastes and smells,along with the most advanced mixed-media equipment to heighten (or neutralize) thepsychological charge that accompanies even the most routine transaction. No importantservice will be offered to the consumer before it has been analyzed by teams of behavioralengineers to improve its psychic loading. EXPERIENTIAL INDUSTRIESReaching beyond these simple elaborations of the present, we shall also witness arevolutionary expansion of certain industries whose sole output consists not of manufacturedgoods, nor even of ordinary services, but of pre-programmed "experiences." The experienceindustry could turn out to be one of the pillars of super-industrialism, the very foundation, infact, of the post-service economy. As rising affluence and transience ruthlessly undercut the old urge to possess,consumers begin to collect experiences as consciously and passionately as they oncecollected things. Today, as the airline example suggests, experiences are sold as an adjunct tosome more traditional service. The experience is, so to speak, the frosting on the cake. As weadvance into the future, however, more and more experiences will be sold strictly on theirown merits, exactly as if they were things. Precisely this is beginning to happen, in fact. This accounts for the high growth ratevisible in certain industries that have always been, at least partly, engaged in the productionof experiences for their own sake. The arts are a good example. Much of the "cultureindustry" is devoted to the creation or staging of specialized psychological experiences.Today we find art-based "experience industries" booming in virtually all the techno-societies.The same is true of recreation, mass entertainment, education, and certain psychiatricservices, all of which participate in what might be called experiential production. When Club Méditerranée sells a package holiday that takes a young French secretary toTahiti or Israel for a week or two of sun and sex, it is manufacturing an experience for herquite as carefully and systematically as Renault manufactures cars. Its advertisementsunderscore the point. Thus a two-page spread in The New York Times Magazine begins withthe headline: "Take 300 men and women. Strand them on an exotic island. And strip them of
every social pressure." Based in France, Club Méditerranée now operates thirty-four vacation"villages" all over the world. Similarly, when the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, offers weekend seminars in"body-awareness" and "non-verbal communication," at seventy dollars per person, or five-day workshops at $180, it promises not simply to teach, but to plunge its affluent customersinto "joyous" new interpersonal experiences—a phrase some readers take to mean adventureswith sex or LSD. Group therapy and sensitivity training sessions are packaged experiences.So are certain classes. Thus, going to an Arthur Murray or Fred Astaire studio to learn thelatest dance step may provide the student with a skill that will bring enjoyment in the future,but it also provides a pleasurable here-and-now experience for the lonely bachelor or spinster.The learning experience, itself, is a major attraction for the customer. All these, however, provide only the palest clue as to the nature of the experienceindustry of the future and the great psychological corporations, or psych-corps, that willdominate it. SIMULATED ENVIRONMENTSOne important class of experiential products will be based on simulated environments thatoffer the customer a taste of adventure, danger, sexual titillation or other pleasure without riskto his real life or reputation. Thus computer experts, roboteers, designers, historians, andmuseum specialists will join to create experiential enclaves that reproduce, as skillfully assophisticated technology will permit, the splendor of ancient Rome, the pomp of QueenElizabeths court, the "sexoticism" of an eighteenth-century Japanese geisha house, and thelike. Customers entering these pleasure domes will leave their everyday clothes (and cares)behind, don costumes, and run through a planned sequence of activities intended to providethem with a first-hand taste of what the original—i.e., unsimulated—reality must have feltlike. They will be invited, in effect, to live in the past or perhaps even in the future. Production of such experiences is closer than one might think. It is clearlyforeshadowed in the participatory techniques now being pioneered in the arts. Thus"happenings" in which the members of the audience take part may be regarded as a firststumbling step toward these simulations of the future. The same is true of more formal worksas well. When Dionysus in 69 was performed in New York, a critic summed up the theoriesof its playwright, Richard Schechner, in the following words. "Theater has traditionally saidto an audience, Sit down and Ill tell you a story. Why cant it also say, Stand up and wellplay a game?" Schechners work, based loosely on Euripides, says precisely this, and theaudience is literally invited to join in dancing to celebrate the rites of Dionysus. Artists also have begun to create whole "environments"—works of art into which theaudience may actually walk, and inside which things happen. In Sweden the Moderna Museethas exhibited an immense papier-mâché lady called "Hon" ("She"), into whose innards theaudience entered via a vaginal portal. Once inside, there were ramps, stairways, flashinglights, odd sounds, and something called a "bottle smashing machine." Dozens of museumsand galleries around the United States and Europe now display such "environments." Timemagazines art critic suggests that their intention is to bombard the spectator with "wackysights, weirdo sounds and otherworldly sensations, ranging from the feeling ofweightlessness to hopped-up, psychedelic hallucinations." The artists who produce these arereally "experiential engineers." In a deceptively shabby storefront on a Lower Manhattan street lined with factories andwarehouses, I visited Cerebrum, an "electronic studio of participation" where, for an hourlyfee, guests are admitted into a startling white, high-ceilinged room. There they strip off their
clothing, don semi-transparent robes, and sprawl comfortably on richly padded whiteplatforms. Attractive male and female "guides," similarly nude under their veils, offer eachguest a stereophonic headset, a see-through mask, and, from time to time, balloons,kaleidoscopes, tambourines, plastic pillows, mirrors, pieces of crystal, marshmallows, slidesand slide projectors. Folk and rock music, interspersed with snatches of televisioncommercials, street noises and a lecture by or about Marshall McLuhan fill the ears. As themusic grows more excited, guests and guides begin to dance on the platforms and thecarpeted white walkways that connect them. Bubbles drift down from machines in theceiling. Hostesses float through, spraying a variety of fragrances into the air. Lights changecolor and random images wrap themselves around the walls, guests and guides. The moodshifts from cool at first to warm, friendly, and mildly erotic. Still primitive both artistically and technologically, Cerebrum is a pale forerunner ofthe "$25,000,000 super Environmental Entertainment Complex" its builders enthusiasticallytalk of creating some day. Whatever their artistic merit, experiments such as these point to farmore sophisticated enclave-building in the future. Todays young artists and environmentalentrepreneurs are performing research and development for the psych-corps of tomorrow. LIVE ENVIRONMENTSKnowledge gained for this research will permit the construction of fantastic simulations. Butit will also lead to complex live environments that subject the customer to significant risksand rewards. The African safari today is a colorless example. Future experience designerswill, for example, create gambling casinos in which the customer plays not for money, but forexperiential payoffs—a date with a lovely and willing lady if he wins, perhaps a day insolitary confinement if he loses. As the stakes rise, more imaginative payoffs andpunishments will be designed. A loser may have to serve (by voluntary pre-agreement) as a "slave" to a winner forseveral days. A winner may be rewarded by ten free minutes of electronic pleasure-probingof his brain. A player may risk flogging or its psychological equivalent—participation in aday-long session during which winners are permitted to work off their aggressions andhostilities by sneering, shouting at, reviling, or otherwise attacking the ego of the loser. High rollers may play to win a free heart or lung transplant at some later date, should itprove to be necessary. Losers may have to forego a kidney. Such payoffs and punishmentsmay be escalated in intensity and varied endlessly. Experiential designers will study thepages of Krafft-Ebing or the Marquis de Sade for ideas. Only imagination, technologicalcapability, and the constraints of a generally relaxed morality limit the possibilities.Experiential gambling cities will rise to overshadow Las Vegas or Deauville, combining in asingle place some of the features of Disneyland, the Worlds Fair, Cape Kennedy, the MayoClinic, and the honky-tonks of Macao.* Once again, present-day developments foreshadow the future. Thus certain Americantelevision programs, such as The Dating Game, already pay players off in experientialrewards, as does the contest recently discussed in the Swedish Parliament. In this contest, apornographic magazine awarded one of its readers a week in Majorca with one of its"topless" models. A Conservative M.P. challenged the propriety of such goings-on.Presumably, he felt better when he was assured by the Finance Minister, Gunnar Sträng, thatthe transaction was taxable. Simulated and non-simulated experiences will also be combined in ways that willsharply challenge mans grasp of reality. In Ray Bradburys vivid novel, Fahrenheit 451,suburban couples desperately save their money to enable them to buy three-wall or four-wall
video sets that permit them to enter into a kind of televised psycho-drama. They becomeactor-participants in soap operas that continue for weeks or months. Their participation inthese stories is highly involving. We are, in fact, beginning to move toward the actualdevelopment of such "interactive" films with the help of advanced communicationstechnology. The combination of simulations and "reals" will vastly multiply the number andvariety of experiential products. But the great psych-corps of tomorrow will not only sell individual, discreteexperiences. They will offer sequences of experiences so organized that their veryjuxtaposition with one another will contribute color, harmony or contrast to lives that lackthese qualities. Beauty, excitement, danger or delicious sensuality will be programmed toenhance one another. By offering such experiential chains or sequences, the psych-corps(working closely, no doubt, with community mental health centers) will provide partialframeworks for those whose lives are otherwise too chaotic and unstructured. In effect, theywill say: "Let us plan (part of) your life for you." In the transient, change-filled world oftomorrow, that proposition will find many eager takers. The packaged experiences offered in the future will reach far beyond the imagination ofthe average consumer, filling the environment with endless novelties. Companies will viewith one another to create the most outlandish, most gratifying experiences. Indeed, some ofthese experiences—as in the case of topless Swedish models—will even reach beyondtomorrows broadened boundaries of social acceptability. They may be offered to the publiccovertly by unlicensed, underground psych-corps. This will simply add the thrill of"illicitude" to the experience itself. (One very old experiential industry has traditionally operated covertly: prostitution.Many other illegal activities also fit within the experience industry. For the most part,however, all these reveal a paucity of imagination and a lack of technical resources that willbe remedied in the future. They are trivial compared with the possibilities in a society thatwill, by the year 2000 or sooner, be armed with robots, advanced computers, personality-altering drugs, brain-stimulating pleasure probes, and similar technological goodies.) The diversity of novel experiences arrayed before the consumer will be the work ofexperience-designers, who will be drawn from the ranks of the most creative people in thesociety. The working motto of this profession will be: "If you cant serve it up real, find avicarious substitute. If youre good, the customer will never know the difference!" Thisimplied blurring of the line between the real and the unreal will confront the society withserious problems, but it will not prevent or even slow the emergence of the "psyche-serviceindustries" and "psych-corps." Great globe-girdling syndicates will create super-Disneylandsof a variety, scale, scope, and emotional power that is hard for us to imagine. We can thus sketch the dim outlines of the super-industrial economy, the post-serviceeconomy of the future. Agriculture and the manufacture of goods will have become economicbackwaters, employing fewer and fewer people. Highly automated, the making and growingof goods will be relatively simple. The design of new goods and the process of coating themwith stronger, brighter, more emotion-packed psychological connotations, however, willchallenge the ingenuity of tomorrows best and most resourceful entrepreneurs. The service sector, as defined today, will be vastly enlarged, and once more the designof psychological rewards will occupy a growing percentage of corporate time, energy andmoney. Investment services, such as mutual funds, for example, may introduce elements ofexperiential gambling to provide both additional excitement and non-economic payoffs totheir shareholders. Insurance companies may offer not merely to pay death benefits, but tocare for the widow or widower for several months after bereavement, providing nurses,psychological counseling and other assistance. Based on banks of detailed data about theircustomers, they may offer a computerized mating service to help the survivor locate a new
life partner. Services, in short, will be greatly elaborated. Attention will be paid to thepsychological overtones of every step or component of the product. Finally, we shall watch the irresistible growth of companies already in the experientialfield, and the formation of entirely new enterprises, both profit and non-profit, to design,package and distribute planned or programmed experiences. The arts will expand, becomingas Ruskin or Morris might have said, the handmaiden of industry. Psych-corps and otherbusinesses will employ actors, directors, musicians and designers in large numbers.Recreational industries will grow, as the whole nature of leisure is redefined in experientialterms. Education, already exploding in size, will become one of the key experience industriesas it begins to employ experiential techniques to convey both knowledge and values tostudents. The communications and computer industries will find in experiential production amajor market for their machines and for their soft-ware as well. In short, those industries thatin one way or another associate themselves with behavioral technology, those industries thattranscend the production of tangible goods and traditional services, will expand most rapidly.Eventually, the experience-makers will form a basic—if not the basic—sector of theeconomy. The process of psychologization will be complete. * For a brilliant and provocative insight into experiential gambling and its philosophical implications, see"The Lottery in Babylon," by Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentinian philosopher-essayist. This short work is foundin Borges collection entitled Labyrinths. THE ECONOMICS OF SANITYThe essence of tomorrows economy, declares the Stanford Research Institute in a report byits Long Range Planning Service, will be an "emphasis upon the inner as well as the materialneeds of individuals and groups." This new emphasis, SRI suggests, will arise not merelyfrom the demands of the consumer, but from the very need of the economy to survive. "In anation where all essential material needs can be filled by perhaps no more than three-fourthsor even half of the productive capacity, a basic adjustment is required to keep the economyhealthy." It is this convergence of pressures—from the consumer and from those who wish tokeep the economy growing—that will propel the techno-societies toward the experientialproduction of the future. The movement in this direction can be delayed. The poverty-stricken masses of theworld may not stand idly by as the worlds favored few traverse the path towardpsychological self-indulgence. There is something morally repellent about one group seekingto gratify itself psychologically, pursuing novel and rarified pleasures, while the majority ofmankind lives in wretchedness or starvation. The techno-societies could defer the arrival ofexperientialism, could maintain a more conventional economy for a time by maximizingtraditional production, shifting resources to environmental quality control, and then launchingabsolutely massive anti-poverty and foreign aid programs. By creaming off "excess" productivity and, in effect, giving it away, the factories canbe kept running, the agricultural surpluses used up, and the society can continue to focus onthe satisfaction of material wants. A fifty-year campaign to erase hunger from the world, forexample, would not only make excellent moral sense, but would buy the techno-societiesbadly needed time for an easier transition to the economy of the future. Such a pause might give us time to contemplate the philosophical and psychologicalimpact of experiential production. If consumers can no longer distinguish clearly between thereal and the simulated, if whole stretches of ones life may be commercially programmed, weenter into a set of psycho-economic problems of breathtaking complexity. These problems
challenge our most fundamental beliefs, not merely about democracy or economics, but aboutthe very nature of rationality and sanity. One of the great unasked questions of our time has to do with the balance betweenvicarious and non-vicarious experience in our lives. No previous generation has been exposedto one-tenth the amount of vicarious experiences that we lavish on ourselves and our childrentoday, and no one, anywhere, has any real idea about the impact of this monumental shift onpersonality. Our children mature physically more rapidly than we did. The age of firstmenstruation continues to drop four to six months every decade. The population grows tallersooner. It is clear that many of our young people, products of television and instant access tooceans of information, also become precocious intellectually. But what happens to emotionaldevelopment as the ratio of vicarious experience to "real" experience rises? Does the step-upof vicariousness contribute to emotional maturity? Or does it, in fact, retard it? And what, then, happens when an economy in search of a new purpose, seriouslybegins to enter into the production of experiences for their own sake, experiences that blur thedistinction between the vicarious and the non-vicarious, the simulated and the real? One ofthe definitions of sanity, itself, is the ability to tell real from unreal. Shall we need a newdefinition? We must begin to reflect on these problems, for unless we do—and perhaps even if wedo—service will in the end triumph over manufacture, and experiential production overservice. The growth of the experiential sector might just be an inevitable consequence ofaffluence. For the satisfaction of mans elemental material needs opens the way for new, moresophisticated gratifications. We are moving from a "gut" economy to a "psyche" economybecause there is only so much gut to be satisfied. Beyond this, we are also moving swiftly in the direction of a society in which objects,things, physical constructs, are increasingly transient. Not merely mans relationships withthem, but the very things themselves. It may be that experiences are the only products which,once bought by the consumer, cannot be taken away from him, cannot be disposed of likenon-returnable soda pop bottles or nicked razor blades. For the ancient Japanese nobility every flower, every serving bowl or obi, was freightedwith surplus meaning; each carried a heavy load of coded symbolism and ritual significance.The movement toward the psychologization of manufactured goods takes us in this direction;but it collides with the powerful thrust toward transience that makes the objects themselvesso perishable. Thus we shall find it easier to adorn our services with symbolic significancethan our products. And, in the end, we shall pass beyond the service economy, beyond theimagination of todays economists; we shall become the first culture in history to employ hightechnology to manufacture that most transient, yet lasting of products: the human experience.
Chapter 11 THE FRACTURED FAMILYThe flood of novelty about to crash down upon us will spread from universities and researchcenters to factories and offices, from the marketplace and mass media into our socialrelationships, from the community into the home. Penetrating deep into our private lives, itwill place absolutely unprecedented strains on the family itself. The family has been called the "giant shock absorber" of society—the place to whichthe bruised and battered individual returns after doing battle with the world, the one stablepoint in an increasingly flux-filled environment. As the super-industrial revolution unfolds,this "shock absorber" will come in for some shocks of its own. Social critics have a field day speculating about the family. The family is "near thepoint of complete extinction," says Ferdinand Lundberg, author of The Coming WorldTransformation. "The family is dead except for the first year or two of child raising,"according to psychoanalyst William Wolf. "This will be its only function." Pessimists tell usthe family is racing toward oblivion—but seldom tell us what will take its place. Family optimists, in contrast, contend that the family, having existed all this time, willcontinue to exist. Some go so far as to argue that the family is in for a Golden Age. As leisurespreads, they theorize, families will spend more time together and will derive greatsatisfaction from joint activity. "The family that plays together, stays together," etc. A more sophisticated view holds that the very turbulence of tomorrow will drive peopledeeper into their families. "People will marry for stable structure," says Dr. Irwin M.Greenberg, Professor of Psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. According tothis view, the family serves as ones "portable roots," anchoring one against the storm ofchange. In short, the more transient and novel the environment, the more important the familywill become. It may be that both sides in this debate are wrong. For the future is more open than itmight appear. The family may neither vanish nor enter upon a new Golden Age. It may—andthis is far more likely—break up, shatter, only to come together again in weird and novelways. THE MYSTIQUE OF MOTHERHOODThe most obviously upsetting force likely to strike the family in the decades immediatelyahead will be the impact of the new birth technology. The ability to pre-set the sex of onesbaby, or even to "program" its IQ, looks and personality traits, must now be regarded as a realpossibility. Embryo implants, babies grown in vitro, the ability to swallow a pill andguarantee oneself twins or triplets or, even more, the ability to walk into a "babytorium" andactually purchase embryos—all this reaches so far beyond any previous human experiencethat one needs to look at the future through the eyes of the poet or painter, rather than those ofthe sociologist or conventional philosopher. It is regarded as somehow unscholarly, even frivolous, to discuss these matters. Yetadvances in science and technology, or in reproductive biology alone, could, within a shorttime, smash all orthodox ideas about the family and its responsibilities. When babies can begrown in a laboratory jar what happens to the very notion of maternity? And what happens to
the self-image of the female in societies which, since the very beginnings of man, have taughther that her primary mission is the propagation of and nurture of the race? Few social scientists have begun as yet to concern themselves with such questions. Onewho has is psychiatrist Hyman G. Weitzen, director of Neuropsychiatric Service at PolyclinicHospital in New York. The cycle of birth, Dr. Weitzen suggests, "fulfills for most women amajor creative need ... Most women are proud of their ability to bear children ... The specialaura that glorifies the pregnant woman has figured largely in the art and literature of bothEast and West." What happens to the cult of motherhood, Weitzen asks, if "her offspring might literallynot be hers, but that of a genetically superior ovum, implanted in her womb from anotherwoman, or even grown in a Petri dish?" If women are to be important at all, he suggests, itwill no longer be because they alone can bear children. If nothing else, we are about to killoff the mystique of motherhood. Not merely motherhood, but the concept of parenthood itself may be in for radicalrevision. Indeed, the day may soon dawn when it is possible for a child to have more thantwo biological parents. Dr. Beatrice Mintz, a developmental biologist at the Institute forCancer Research in Philadelphia, has grown what are coming to be known as "multi-mice"—baby mice each of which has more than the usual number of parents. Embryos are taken fromeach of two pregnant mice. These embryos are placed in a laboratory dish and nurtured untilthey form a single growing mass. This is then implanted in the womb of a third femalemouse. A baby is born that clearly shares the genetic characteristics of both sets of donors.Thus a typical multi-mouse, born of two pairs of parents, has white fur and whiskers on oneside of its face, dark fur and whiskers on the other, with alternating bands of white and darkhair covering the rest of the body. Some 700 multi-mice bred in this fashion have alreadyproduced more than 35,000 offspring themselves. If multi-mouse is here, can "multi-man" befar behind? Under such circumstances, what or who is a parent? When a woman bears in her uterusan embryo conceived in another womans womb, who is the mother? And just exactly who isthe father? If a couple can actually purchase an embryo, then parenthood becomes a legal, not abiological matter. Unless such transactions are tightly controlled, one can imagine suchgrotesqueries as a couple buying an embryo, raising it in vitro, then buying another in thename of the first, as though for a trust fund. In that case, they might be regarded as legal"grandparents" before their first child is out of its infancy. We shall need a whole newvocabulary to describe kinship ties. Furthermore, if embryos are for sale, can a corporation buy one? Can it buy tenthousand? Can it resell them? And if not a corporation, how about a noncommercial researchlaboratory? If we buy and sell living embryos, are we back to a new form of slavery? Suchare the nightmarish questions soon to be debated by us. To continue to think of the family,therefore, in purely conventional terms is to defy all reason. Faced by rapid social change and the staggering implications of the scientificrevolution, super-industrial man may be forced to experiment with novel family forms.Innovative minorities can be expected to try out a colorful variety of family arrangements.They will begin by tinkering with existing forms. THE STREAMLINED FAMILYOne simple thing they will do is streamline the family. The typical pre-industrial family notonly had a good many children, but numerous other dependents as well—grandparents,
uncles, aunts, and cousins. Such "extended" families were well suited for survival in slow-paced agricultural societies. But such families are hard to transport or transplant. They areimmobile. Industrialism demanded masses of workers ready and able to move off the land inpursuit of jobs, and to move again whenever necessary. Thus the extended family graduallyshed its excess weight and the so-called "nuclear" family emerged—a stripped-down,portable family unit consisting only of parents and a small set of children. This new stylefamily, far more mobile than the traditional extended family, became the standard model inall the industrial countries. Super-industrialism, however, the next stage of eco-technological development,requires even higher mobility. Thus we may expect many among the people of the future tocarry the streamlining process a step further by remaining childless, cutting the family downto its most elemental components, a man and a woman. Two people, perhaps with matchedcareers, will prove more efficient at navigating through education and social shoals, throughjob changes and geographic relocations, than the ordinary child-cluttered family. Indeed,anthropologist Margaret Mead has pointed out that we may already be moving toward asystem under which, as she puts it, "parenthood would be limited to a smaller number offamilies whose principal functions would be childrearing," leaving the rest of the population"free to function—for the first time in history—as individuals." A compromise may be the postponement of children, rather than childlessness. Menand women today are often torn in conflict between a commitment to career and acommitment to children. In the future, many couples will sidestep this problem by deferringthe entire task of raising children until after retirement. This may strike people of the present as odd. Yet once childbearing is broken awayfrom its biological base, nothing more than tradition suggests having children at an early age.Why not wait, and buy your embryos later, after your work career is over? Thus childlessnessis likely to spread among young and middle-aged couples; sexagenarians who raise infantsmay be far more common. The post-retirement family could become a recognized socialinstitution. BIO-PARENTS AND PRO-PARENTSIf a smaller number of families raise children, however, why do the children have to be theirown? Why not a system under which "professional parents" take on the childrearing functionfor others? Raising children, after all, requires skills that are by no means universal. We dont let"just anyone" perform brain surgery or, for that matter, sell stocks and bonds. Even the lowestranking civil servant is required to pass tests proving competence. Yet we allow virtuallyanyone, almost without regard for mental or moral qualification, to try his or her hand atraising young human beings, so long as these humans are biological offspring. Despite theincreasing complexity of the task, parenthood remains the greatest single preserve of theamateur. As the present system cracks and the super-industrial revolution rolls over us, as thearmies of juvenile delinquents swell, as hundreds of thousands of youngsters flee theirhomes, and students rampage at universities in all the techno-societies, we can expectvociferous demands for an end to parental dilettantism. There are far better ways to cope with the problems of youth, but professionalparenthood is certain to be proposed, if only because it fits so perfectly with the societysoverall push toward specialization. Moreover, there is a powerful, pent-up demand for this
social innovation. Even now millions of parents, given the opportunity, would happilyrelinquish their parental responsibilities—and not necessarily through irresponsibility or lackof love. Harried, frenzied, up against the wall, they have come to see themselves asinadequate to the tasks. Given affluence and the existence of specially-equipped and licensedprofessional parents, many of todays biological parents would not only gladly surrender theirchildren to them, but would look upon it as an act of love, rather than rejection. Parental professionals would not be therapists, but actual family units assigned to, andwell paid for, rearing children. Such families might be multi-generational by design, offeringchildren in them an opportunity to observe and learn from a variety of adult models, as wasthe case in the old farm homestead. With the adults paid to be professional parents, theywould be freed of the occupational necessity to relocate repeatedly. Such families would takein new children as old ones "graduate" so that age-segregation would be minimized. Thus newspapers of the future might well carry advertisements addressed to youngmarried couples: "Why let parenthood tie you down? Let us raise your infant into aresponsible, successful adult. Class A Pro-family offers: father age 39, mother, 36,grandmother, 67. Uncle and aunt, age 30, live in, hold part-time local employment. Four-child-unit has opening for one, age 6—8. Regulated diet exceeds government standards. Alladults certified in child development and management. Bio-parents permitted frequent visits.Telephone contact allowed. Child may spend summer vacation with bio-parents. Religion,art, music encouraged by special arrangement. Five year contract, minimum. Write for furtherdetails." The "real" or "bio-parents" could, as the ad suggests, fill the role presently played byinterested godparents, namely that of friendly and helpful outsiders. In such a way, thesociety could continue to breed a wide diversity of genetic types, yet turn the care of childrenover to mother-father groups who are equipped, both intellectually and emotionally, for thetask of caring for kids. COMMUNES AND HOMOSEXUAL DADDIESQuite a different alternative lies in the communal family. As transience increases theloneliness and alienation in society, we can anticipate increasing experimentation withvarious forms of group marriage. The banding together of several adults and children into asingle "family" provides a kind of insurance against isolation. Even if one or two members ofthe household leave, the remaining members have one another. Communes are springing upmodeled after those described by psychologist B. F. Skinner in Walden Two and by novelistRobert Rimmer in The Harrad Experiment and Proposition 31. In the latter work, Rimmerseriously proposes the legalization of a "corporate family" in which from three to six adultsadopt a single name, live and raise children in common, and legally incorporate to obtaincertain economic and tax advantages. According to some observers, there are already hundreds of open or covert communesdotting the American map. Not all, by any means, are composed of young people or hippies.Some are organized around specific goals—like the group, quietly financed by three EastCoast colleges—which has taken as its function the task of counseling college freshmen,helping to orient them to campus life. The goals may be social, religious, political, evenrecreational. Thus we shall before long begin to see communal families of surfers dotting thebeaches of California and Southern France, if they dont already. We shall see the emergenceof communes based on political doctrines and religious faiths. In Denmark, a bill to legalizegroup marriage has already been introduced in the Folketing (Parliament). While passage isnot imminent, the act of introduction is itself a significant symbol of change.
In Chicago, 250 adults and children already live together in "family-style monasticism"under the auspices of a new, fast-growing religious organization, the Ecumenical Institute.Members share the same quarters, cook and eat together, worship and tend children incommon, and pool their incomes. At least 60,000 people have taken "EI" courses and similarcommunes have begun to spring up in Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles and other cities. "Abrand-new world is emerging," says Professor Joseph W. Mathews, leader of the EcumenicalInstitute, "but people are still operating in terms of the old one. We seek to re-educate peopleand give them the tools to build a new social context." Still another type of family unit likely to win adherents in the future might be called the"geriatric commune"—a group marriage of elderly people drawn together in a commonsearch for companionship and assistance. Disengaged from the productive economy thatmakes mobility necessary, they will settle in a single place, band together, pool funds,collectively hire domestic or nursing help, and proceed—within limits—to have the "time oftheir lives." Communalism runs counter to the pressure for ever greater geographical and socialmobility generated by the thrust toward super-industrialism. It presupposes groups of peoplewho "stay put." For this reason, communal experiments will first proliferate among those inthe society who are free from the industrial discipline—the retired population, the young, thedropouts, the students, as well as among self-employed professional and technical people.Later, when advanced technology and information systems make it possible for much of thework of society to be done at home via computer-telecommunication hookups, communalismwill become feasible for larger numbers. We shall, however, also see many more "family" units consisting of a single unmarriedadult and one or more children. Nor will all of these adults be women. It is already possiblein some places for unmarried men to adopt children. In 1965 in Oregon, for example, a thirty-eight-year-old musician named Tony Piazza became the first unmarried man in that state, andperhaps in the United States, to be granted the right to adopt a baby. Courts are more readilygranting custody to divorced fathers, too. In London, photographer Michael Cooper, marriedat twenty and divorced soon after, won the right to raise his infant son, and expressed aninterest in adopting other children. Observing that he did not particularly wish to remarry, butthat he liked children, Cooper mused aloud: "I wish you could just ask beautiful women tohave babies for you. Or any woman you liked, or who had something you admired. Ideally,Id like a big house full of children—all different colors, shapes and sizes." Romantic?Unmanly? Perhaps. Yet attitudes like these will be widely held by men in the future. Two pressures are even now softening up the culture, preparing it for acceptance of theidea of childrearing by men. First, adoptable children are in oversupply in some places. Thus,in California, disc jockeys blare commercials: "We have many wonderful babies of all racesand nationalities waiting to bring love and happiness to the right families ... Call the LosAngeles County Bureau of Adoption." At the same time, the mass media, in a strange non-conspiratorial fashion, appear to have decided simultaneously that men who raise childrenhold special interest for the public. Extremely popular television shows in recent seasonshave glamorized womanless households in which men scrub floors, cook, and, mostsignificantly, raise children. My Three Sons, The Rifleman, Bonanza and Bachelor Father arefour examples. As homosexuality becomes more socially acceptable, we may even begin to findfamilies based on homosexual "marriages" with the partners adopting children. Whether thesechildren would be of the same or opposite sex remains to be seen. But the rapidity with whichhomosexuality is winning respectability in the techno-societies distinctly points in thisdirection. In Holland not long ago a Catholic priest "married" two homosexuals, explaining tocritics that "they are among the faithful to be helped." England has rewritten its relevant
legislation; homosexual relations between consenting adults are no longer considered a crime.And in the United States a meeting of Episcopal clergymen concluded publicly thathomosexuality might, under certain circumstances, be adjudged "good." The day may alsocome when a court decides that a couple of stable, well educated homosexuals might makedecent "parents." We might also see the gradual relaxation of bars against polygamy. Polygamousfamilies exist even now, more widely than generally believed, in the midst of "normal"society. Writer Ben Merson, after visiting several such families in Utah where polygamy isstill regarded as essential by certain Mormon fundamentalists, estimated that there are some30,000 people living in underground family units of this type in the United States. As sexualattitudes loosen up, as property rights become less important because of rising affluence, thesocial repression of polygamy may come to be regarded as irrational. This shift may befacilitated by the very mobility that compels men to spend considerable time away from theirpresent homes. The old male fantasy of the Captains Paradise may become a reality forsome, although it is likely that, under such circumstances, the wives left behind will demandextramarital sexual rights. Yesterdays "captain" would hardly consider this possibility.Tomorrows may feel quite differently about it. Still another family form is even now springing up in our midst, a novel childrearingunit that I call the "aggregate family"—a family based on relationships between divorced andremarried couples, in which all the children become part of "one big family." Thoughsociologists have paid little attention as yet to this phenomenon, it is already so prevalent thatit formed the basis for a hilarious scene in a recent American movie entitled DivorceAmerican Style. We may expect aggregate families to take on increasing importance in thedecades ahead. Childless marriage, professional parenthood, postretirement childrearing, corporatefamilies, communes, geriatric group marriages, homosexual family units, polygamy—these,then, are a few of the family forms and practices with which innovative minorities willexperiment in the decades ahead. Not all of us, however, will be willing to participate in suchexperimentation. What of the majority? THE ODDS AGAINST LOVEMinorities experiment; majorities cling to the forms of the past. It is safe to say that largenumbers of people will refuse to jettison the conventional idea of marriage or the familiarfamily forms. They will, no doubt, continue searching for happiness within the orthodoxformat. Yet, even they will be forced to innovate in the end, for the odds against success mayprove overwhelming. The orthodox format presupposes that two young people will "find" one another andmarry. It presupposes that the two will fulfill certain psychological needs in one another, andthat the two personalities will develop over the years, more or less in tandem, so that theycontinue to fulfill each others needs. It further presupposes that this process will last "untildeath do us part." These expectations are built deeply into our culture. It is no longer respectable, as itonce was, to marry for anything but love. Love has changed from a peripheral concern of thefamily into its primary justification. Indeed, the pursuit of love through family life hasbecome, for many, the very purpose of life itself. Love, however, is defined in terms of this notion of shared growth. It is seen as abeautiful mesh of complementary needs, flowing into and out of one another, fulfilling theloved ones, and producing feelings of warmth, tenderness and devotion. Unhappy husbands
often complain that they have "left their wives behind" in terms of social, educational orintellectual growth. Partners in successful marriages are said to "grow together." This "parallel development" theory of love carries endorsement from marriagecounsellors, psychologists and sociologists. Thus, says sociologist Nelson Foote, a specialiston the family, the quality of the relationship between husband and wife is dependent upon"the degree of matching in their phases of distinct but comparable development." If love is a product of shared growth, however, and we are to measure success inmarriage by the degree to which matched development actually occurs, it becomes possible tomake a strong and ominous prediction about the future. It is possible to demonstrate that, even in a relatively stagnant society, the mathematicalodds are heavily stacked against any couple achieving this ideal of parallel growth. The oddsfor success positively plummet, however, when the rate of change in society accelerates, as itnow is doing. In a fast-moving society, in which many things change, not once, butrepeatedly, in which the husband moves up and down a variety of economic and social scales,in which the family is again and again torn loose from home and community, in whichindividuals move further from their parents, further from the religion of origin, and furtherfrom traditional values, it is almost miraculous if two people develop at anything likecomparable rates. If, at the same time, average life expectancy rises from, say, fifty to seventy years,thereby lengthening the term during which this acrobatic feat of matched development issupposed to be maintained, the odds against success become absolutely astronomical. Thus,Nelson Foote writes with wry understatement: "To expect a marriage to last indefinitelyunder modern conditions is to expect a lot." To ask love to last indefinitely is to expect evenmore. Transience and novelty are both in league against it. TEMPORARY MARRIAGEIt is this change in the statistical odds against love that accounts for the high divorce andseparation rates in most of the techno-societies. The faster the rate of change and the longerthe life span, the worse these odds grow. Something has to crack. In point of fact, of course, something has already cracked—and it is the old insistenceon permanence. Millions of men and women now adopt what appears to them to be a sensibleand conservative strategy. Rather than opting for some offbeat variety of the family, theymarry conventionally, they attempt to make it "work," and then, when the paths of thepartners diverge beyond an acceptable point, they divorce or depart. Most of them go on tosearch for a new partner whose developmental stage, at that moment, matches their own. As human relationships grow more transient and modular, the pursuit of love becomes,if anything, more frenzied. But the temporal expectations change. As conventional marriageproves itself less and less capable of delivering on its promise of lifelong love, therefore, wecan anticipate open public acceptance of temporary marriages. Instead of wedding "untildeath us do part," couples will enter into matrimony knowing from the first that therelationship is likely to be short-lived. They will know, too, that when the paths of husband and wife diverge, when there istoo great a discrepancy in developmental stages, they may call it quits—without shock orembarrassment, perhaps even without some of the pain that goes with divorce today. Andwhen the opportunity presents itself, they will marry again ... and again ... and again. Serial marriage—a pattern of successive temporary marriages—is cut to order for theAge of Transience in which all mans relationships, all his ties with the environment, shrinkin duration. It is the natural, the inevitable outgrowth of a social order in which automobiles
are rented, dolls traded in, and dresses discarded after one-time use. It is the mainstreammarriage pattern of tomorrow. In one sense, serial marriage is already the best kept family secret of the techno-societies. According to Professor Jessie Bernard, a world-prominent family sociologist,"Plural marriage is more extensive in our society today than it is in societies that permitpolygamy—the chief difference being that we have institutionalized plural marriage seriallyor sequentially rather than contemporaneously." Remarriage is already so prevalent a practicethat nearly one out of every four bridegrooms in America has been to the altar before. It is soprevalent that one IBM personnel man reports a poignant incident involving a divorcedwoman, who, in filling out a job application, paused when she came to the question of maritalstatus. She put her pencil in her mouth, pondered for a moment, then wrote: "Unremarried." Transience necessarily affects the durational expectancies with which persons approachnew situations. While they may yearn for a permanent relationship, something insidewhispers to them that it is an increasingly improbable luxury. Even young people who most passionately seek commitment, profound involvementwith people and causes, recognize the power of the thrust toward transience. Listen, forexample, to a young black American, a civil-rights worker, as she describes her attitudetoward time and marriage: "In the white world, marriage is always billed as the end—like in a Hollywood movie.I dont go for that. I cant imagine myself promising my whole lifetime away. I might want toget married now, but how about next year? Thats not disrespect for the institution [ofmarriage], but the deepest respect. In The [civil rights] Movement, you need to have a feelingfor the temporary—of making something as good as you can, while it lasts. In conventionalrelationships, time is a prison." Such attitudes will not be confined to the young, the few, or the politically active. Theywill whip across nations as novelty floods into the society and catch fire as the level oftransience rises still higher. And along with them will come a sharp increase in the number oftemporary—then serial—marriages. The idea is summed up vividly by a Swedish magazine, Svensk Damtidning, whichinterviewed a number of leading Swedish sociologists, legal experts, and others about thefuture of man-woman relationships. It presented its findings in five photographs. Theyshowed the same beautiful bride being carried across the threshold five times—by fivedifferent bridegrooms. MARRIAGE TRAJECTORIESAs serial marriages become more common, we shall begin to characterize people not in termsof their present marital status, but in terms of their marriage career or "trajectory." Thistrajectory will be formed by the decisions they make at certain vital turning points in theirlives. For most people, the first such juncture will arrive in youth, when they enter into "trialmarriage." Even now the young people of the United States and Europe are engaged in amass experiment with probationary marriage, with or without benefit of ceremony. Thestaidest of United States universities are beginning to wink at the practice of co-edhousekeeping among their students. Acceptance of trial marriage is even growing amongcertain religious philosophers. Thus we hear the German theologian Siegfried Keil ofMarburg University urge what he terms "recognized premarriage." In Canada, Father JacquesLazure has publicly proposed "probationary marriages" of three to eighteen months.
In the past, social pressures and lack of money restricted experimentation with trialmarriage to a relative handful. In the future, both these limiting forces will evaporate. Trialmarriage will be the first step in the serial marriage "careers" that millions will pursue. A second critical life juncture for the people of the future will occur when the trialmarriage ends. At this point, couples may choose to formalize their relationship and staytogether into the next stage. Or they may terminate it and seek out new partners. In eithercase, they will then face several options. They may prefer to go childless. They may chooseto have, adopt or "buy" one or more children. They may decide to raise these childrenthemselves or to farm them out to professional parents. Such decisions will be made, by andlarge, in the early twenties—by which time many young adults will already be well into theirsecond marriages. A third significant turning point in the marital career will come, as it does today, whenthe children finally leave home. The end of parenthood proves excruciating for many,particularly women who, once the children are gone, find themselves without a raison dêtre.Even today divorces result from the failure of the couple to adapt to this traumatic break incontinuity. Among the more conventional couples of tomorrow who choose to raise their ownchildren in the time-honored fashion, this will continue to be a particularly painful time. Itwill, however, strike earlier. Young people today already leave home sooner than theircounterparts a generation ago. They will probably depart even earlier tomorrow. Masses ofyoungsters will move off, whether into trial marriage or not, in their mid-teens. Thus we mayanticipate that the middle and late thirties will be another important breakpoint in the maritalcareers of millions. Many at that juncture will enter into their third marriage. This thirdmarriage will bring together two people for what could well turn out to be the longestuninterrupted stretch of matrimony in their lives—from, say, the late thirties until one of thepartners dies. This may, in fact, turn out to be the only "real" marriage, the basis of the onlytruly durable marital relationship. During this time two mature people, presumably with well-matched interests and complementary psychological needs, and with a sense of being atcomparable stages of personality development, will be able to look forward to a relationshipwith a decent statistical probability of enduring. Not all these marriages will survive until death, however, for the family will still face afourth crisis point. This will come, as it does now for so many, when one or both of thepartners retires from work. The abrupt change in daily routine brought about by thisdevelopment places great strain on the couple. Some couples will go the path of the post-retirement family, choosing this moment to begin the task of raising children. This mayovercome for them the vacuum that so many couples now face after reaching the end of theiroccupational lives. (Today many women go to work when they finish raising children;tomorrow many will reverse that pattern, working first and childrearing next.) Other coupleswill overcome the crisis of retirement in other ways, fashioning both together a new set ofhabits, interests and activities. Still others will find the transition too difficult, and will simplysever their ties and enter the pool of "in-betweens"—the floating reserve of temporarilyunmarried persons. Of course, there will be some who, through luck, interpersonal skill and highintelligence, will find it possible to make long-lasting monogamous marriages work. Somewill succeed, as they do today, in marrying for life and finding durable love and affection.But others will fail to make even sequential marriages endure for long. Thus some will trytwo or even three partners within, say, the final stage of marriage. Across the board, theaverage number of marriages per capita will rise—slowly but relentlessly. Most people will probably move forward along this progression, engaging in one"conventional" temporary marriage after another. But with widespread familial
experimentation in the society, the more daring or desperate will make side forays into lessconventional arrangements as well, perhaps experimenting with communal life at some point,or going it alone with a child. The net result will be a rich variation in the types of maritaltrajectories that people will trace, a wider choice of life-patterns, an endless opportunity fornovelty of experience. Certain patterns will be more common than others. But temporarymarriage will be a standard feature, perhaps the dominant feature, of family life in the future. THE DEMANDS OF FREEDOMA world in which marriage is temporary rather than permanent, in which family arrangementsare diverse and colorful, in which homosexuals may be acceptable parents and retirees startraising children—such a world is vastly different from our own. Today all boys and girls areexpected to find life-long partners. In tomorrows world, being single will be no crime. Norwill couples be forced to remain imprisoned, as so many still are today, in marriages thathave turned rancid. Divorce will be easy to arrange, so long as responsible provision is madefor children. In fact, the very introduction of professional parenthood could touch off a greatliberating wave of divorces by making it easier for adults to discharge their parentalresponsibilities without necessarily remaining in the cage of a hateful marriage. With thispowerful external pressure removed, those who stay together would be those who wish tostay together, those for whom marriage is actively fulfilling—those, in short, who are in love. We are also likely to see, under this looser, more variegated family system, many moremarriages involving partners of unequal age. Increasingly, older men will marry young girlsor vice versa. What will count will not be chronological age, but complementary values andinterests and, above all, the level of personal development. To put it another way, partnerswill be interested not in age, but in stage. Children in this super-industrial society will grow up with an ever enlarging circle ofwhat might be called "semi-siblings"—a whole clan of boys and girls brought into the worldby their successive sets of parents. What becomes of such "aggregate" families will befascinating to observe. Semi-sibs may turn out to be like cousins, today. They may help oneanother professionally or in time of need. But they will also present the society with novelproblems. Should semi-sibs marry, for example? Surely, the whole relationship of the child to the family will be dramatically altered.Except perhaps in communal groupings, the family will lose what little remains of its powerto transmit values to the younger generation. This will further accelerate the pace of changeand intensify the problems that go with it. Looming over all such changes, however, and even dwarfing them in significance issomething far more subtle. Seldom discussed, there is a hidden rhythm in human affairs thatuntil now has served as one of the key stabilizing forces in society: the family cycle. We begin as children; we mature; we leave the parental nest; we give birth to childrenwho, in turn, grow up, leave and begin the process all over again. This cycle has beenoperating so long, so automatically, and with such implacable regularity, that men have takenit for granted. It is part of the human landscape. Long before they reach puberty, childrenlearn the part they are expected to play in keeping this great cycle turning. This predictablesuccession of family events has provided all men, of whatever tribe or society, with a senseof continuity, a place in the temporal scheme of things. The family cycle has been one of thesanity-preserving constants in human existence. Today this cycle is accelerating. We grow up sooner, leave home sooner, marry sooner,have children sooner. We space them more closely together and complete the period ofparenthood more quickly. In the words of Dr. Bernice Neugarten, a University of Chicago
specialist on family development, "The trend is toward a more rapid rhythm of eventsthrough most of the family cycle." But if industrialism, with its faster pace of life, has accelerated the family cycle, super-industrialism now threatens to smash it altogether. With the fantasies that the birth scientistsare hammering into reality, with the colorful familial experimentation that innovativeminorities will perform, with the likely development of such institutions as professionalparenthood, with the increasing movement toward temporary and serial marriage, we shallnot merely run the cycle more rapidly; we shall introduce irregularity, suspense,unpredictability—in a word, novelty—into what was once as regular and certain as theseasons. When a "mother" can compress the process of birth into a brief visit to an embryoemporium, when by transferring embryos from womb to womb we can destroy even theancient certainty that childbearing took nine months, children will grow up into a world inwhich the family cycle, once so smooth a d sure, will be jerkily arhythmic. Another crucialstabilizer will have been removed from the wreckage of the old order, another pillar of sanitybroken. There is, of course, nothing inevitable about the developments traced in the precedingpages. We have it in our power to shape change. We may choose one future over another. Wecannot, however, maintain the past. In our family forms, as in our economics, science,technology and social relationships, we shall be forced to deal with the new. The Super-industrial Revolution will liberate men from many of the barbarisms thatgrew out of the restrictive, relatively choiceless family patterns of the past and present. It willoffer to each a degree of freedom hitherto unknown. But it will exact a steep price for thatfreedom. As we hurtle into tomorrow, millions of ordinary men and women will face emotion-packed options so unfamiliar, so untested, that past experience will offer little clue towisdom. In their family ties, as in all other aspects of their lives, they will be compelled tocope not merely with transience, but with the added problem of novelty as well. Thus, in matters both large and small, in the most public of conflicts and the mostprivate of conditions, the balance between routine and non-routine, predictable and non-predictable, the known and the unknown, will be altered. The novelty ratio will rise. In such an environment, fast-changing and unfamiliar, we shall be forced, as we wendour way through life, to make our personal choices from a diverse array of options. And it isto the third central characteristic of tomorrow, diversity, that we must now turn. For it is thefinal convergence of these three factors—transience, novelty and diversity—that sets thestage for the historic crisis of adaptation that is the subject of this book: future shock.
Chapter 12 THE ORIGINS OF OVERCHOICEThe Super-industrial Revolution will consign to the archives of ignorance most of what wenow believe about democracy and the future of human choice. Today in the techno-societiesthere is an almost ironclad consensus about the future of freedom. Maximum individualchoice is regarded as the democratic ideal. Yet most writers predict that we shall movefurther and further from this ideal. They conjure up a dark vision of the future, in whichpeople appear as mindless consumer-creatures, surrounded by standardized goods, educatedin standardized schools, fed a diet of standardized mass culture, and forced to adoptstandardized styles of life. Such predictions have spawned a generation of future-haters and technophobes, as onemight expect. One of the most extreme of these is a French religious mystic, Jacques Ellul,whose books are enjoying a campus vogue. According to Ellul, man was far freer in the pastwhen "Choice was a real possibility for him." By contrast, today, "The human being is nolonger in any sense the agent of choice." And, as for tomorrow: "In the future, man willapparently be confined to the role of a recording device." Robbed of choice, he will be actedupon, not active. He will live, Ellul warns, in a totalitarian state run by a velvet-glovedGestapo. This same theme—the loss of choice—runs through much of the work of ArnoldToynbee. It is repeated by everyone from hippie gurus to Supreme Court justices, tabloideditorialists and existentialist philosophers. Put in its simplest form, this Theory of VanishingChoice rests on a crude syllogism: Science and technology have fostered standardization.Science and technology will advance, making the future even more standardized than thepresent. Ergo: Man will progressively lose his freedom of choice. If instead of blindly accepting this syllogism, we stop to analyze it, however, we makean extraordinary discovery. For not only is the logic itself faulty, the entire idea is premisedon sheer factual ignorance about the nature, the meaning and the direction of the Super-industrial Revolution. Ironically, the people of the future may suffer not from an absence of choice, but from aparalyzing surfeit of it. They may turn out to be victims of that peculiarly super-industrialdilemma: overchoice. DESIGN-A-MUSTANGNo person traveling across Europe or the United States can fail to be impressed by thearchitectural similarity of one gas station or airport to another. Anyone thirsting for a softdrink will find one bottle of Coca-Cola to be almost identical with the next. Clearly aconsequence of mass production techniques, the uniformity of certain aspects of our physicalenvironment has long outraged intellectuals. Some decry the Hiltonization of our hotels;others charge that we are homogenizing the entire human race. Certainly, it would be difficult to deny that industrialism has had a leveling effect. Ourability to produce millions of nearly identical units is the crowning achievement of theindustrial age. Thus, when intellectuals bewail the sameness of our material goods, theyaccurately reflect the state of affairs under industrialism.
In the same breath, however, they reveal shocking ignorance about the character ofsuper-industrialism. Focused on what society was, they are blind to what it is fast becoming.For the society of the future will offer not a restricted, standardized flow of goods, but thegreatest variety of unstandardized goods and services any society has ever seen. We aremoving not toward a further extension of material standardization, but toward its dialecticalnegation. The end of standardization is already in sight. The pace varies from industry toindustry, and from country to country. In Europe, the peak of standardization has not yet beencrested. (It may take another twenty or thirty years to run its course.) But in the United States,there is compelling evidence that a historic corner has been turned. Some years ago, for example, an American marketing expert named Kenneth Schwartzmade a surprising discovery. "It is nothing less than a revolutionary transformation that hascome over the mass consumer market during the past five years," he wrote. "From a singlehomogenous unit, the mass market has exploded into a series of segmented, fragmentedmarkets, each with its own needs, tastes and way of life." This fact has begun to alterAmerican industry beyond recognition. The result is an astonishing change in the actualoutpouring of goods offered to the consumer. Philip Morris, for example, sold a single major brand of cigarettes for twenty-one years.Since 1954 by contrast, it has introduced six new brands and so many options with respect tosize, filter and menthol that the smoker now has a choice among sixteen different variations.This fact would be trivial, were it not duplicated in virtually every major product field.Gasoline? Until a few years ago, the American motorist took his pick of either "regular" or"premium." Today he drives up to a Sunoco pump and is asked to choose among eightdifferent blends and mixes. Groceries? Between 1950 and 1963 the number of different soapsand detergents on the American grocery shelf increased from sixty-five to 200; frozen foodsfrom 121 to 350; baking mixes and flour from eighty-four to 200. Even the variety of petfoods increased from fifty-eight to eighty-one. One major company, Corn Products, produces a pancake syrup called Karo. Instead ofoffering the same product nationally, however, it sells two different viscosities, having foundthat Pennsylvanians, for some regional reason, prefer their syrup thicker than otherAmericans. In the field of office décor and furniture, the same process is at work. "There areten times the new styles and colors there were a decade ago," says John A. Saunders,president of General Fireproofing Company, a major manufacturer in the field. "Everyarchitect wants his own shade of green." Companies, in other words, are discovering widevariations in consumer wants and are adapting their production lines to accommodate them.Two economic factors encourage this trend: first, consumers have more money to lavish ontheir specialized wants; second, and even more important, as technology becomes moresophisticated, the cost of introducing variations declines. This is the point that our social critics—most of whom are technologically naive—failto understand: it is only primitive technology that imposes standardization. Automation, incontrast, frees the path to endless, blinding, mind-numbing diversity. "The rigid uniformity and long runs of identical products which characterize ourtraditional mass production plants are becoming less important" reports industrial engineerBoris Yavitz. "Numerically controlled machines can readily shift from one product model orsize to another by a simple change of programs ... Short product runs become economicallyfeasible." According to Professor Van Court Hare, Jr., of the Columbia University GraduateSchool of Business, "Automated equipment ... permits the production of a wide variety ofproducts in short runs at almost mass production costs." Many engineers and businessexperts foresee the day when diversity will cost no more than uniformity.
The finding that pre-automation technology yields standardization, while advancedtechnology permits diversity is borne out by even a casual look at that controversialAmerican innovation, the supermarket. Like gas stations and airports, supermarkets tend tolook alike whether they are in Milan or Milwaukee. By wiping out thousands of little "momand pop" stores they have without doubt contributed to uniformity in the architecturalenvironment. Yet the array of goods they offer the consumer is incomparably more diversethan any corner store could afford to stock. Thus at the very moment that they encouragearchitectural sameness, they foster gastronomic diversity. The reason for this contrast is simple: Food and food packaging technology is far moreadvanced than construction techniques. Indeed, construction has scarcely reached the level ofmass production; it remains, in large measure, a pre-industrial craft. Strangled by localbuilding codes and conservative trade unions, the industrys rate of technological advance isfar below that of other industries. The more advanced the technology, the cheaper it is tointroduce variation in output. We can safely predict, therefore, that when the constructionindustry catches up with manufacture in technological sophistication, gas stations, airports,and hotels, as well as supermarkets, will stop looking as if they had been poured from thesame mold. Uniformity will give way to diversity.* While certain parts of Europe and Japan are still building their first all-purposesupermarkets, the United States has already leaped to the next stage—the creation ofspecialized super-stores that widen still further (indeed, almost beyond belief) the variety ofgoods available to the consumer. In Washington, D.C., one such store specializes in foreignfoods, offering such delicacies as hippopotamus steak, alligator meat, wild snow hare, andthirty-five different kinds of honey. The idea that primitive industrial techniques foster uniformity, while advancedautomated techniques favor diversity, is dramatized by recent changes in the automobileindustry. The widespread introduction of European and Japanese cars into the Americanmarket in the late 1950s opened many new options for the buyer—increasing his choice fromhalf a dozen to some fifty makes. Today even this wide range of choice seems narrow andconstricted. Faced with foreign competition, Detroit took a new look at the so-called "massconsumer." It found not a single uniform mass market, but an aggregation of transient mini-markets. It also found, as one writer put it, that "customers wanted custom-like cars thatwould give them an illusion of having one-of-a-kind." To provide that illusion would havebeen impossible with the old technology; the new computerized assembly systems, however,make possible not merely the illusion, but even—before long—the reality. Thus the beautiful and spectacularly successful Mustang is promoted by Ford as "theone you design yourself," because, as critic Reyner Banham explains, there "isnt a dung-regular Mustang any more, just a stockpile of options to meld in combinations of 3 (bodies) ×4 (engines) × 3 (transmissions) × 4 (basic sets of high-performance engine modifications) - 1(rock-bottom six cylinder car to which these modifications dont apply) + 2 (Shelbygrandtouring and racing set-ups applying to only one body shell and not all engine/transmission combinations)." This does not even take into account the possible variations in color, upholstery andoptional equipment. Both car buyers and auto salesmen are increasingly disconcerted by the sheermultiplicity of options. The buyers problem of choice has become far more complicated, theaddition of each option creating the need for more information, more decisions andsubdecisions. Thus, anyone who has attempted to buy a car lately, as I have, soon finds thatthe task of learning about the various brands, lines, models and options (even within a fixedprice range) requires days of shopping and reading. In short, the auto industry may soon
reach the point at which its technology can economically produce more diversity than theconsumer needs or wants. Yet we are only beginning the march toward destandardization of our material culture.Marshall McLuhan has noted that "Even today, most United States automobiles are, in asense, custom-produced. Figuring all possible combinations of styles, options and colorsavailable on a certain new family sports car, for example, a computer expert came up with25,000,000 different versions of it for a buyer ... When automated electronic productionreaches full potential, it will be just about as cheap to turn out a million differing objects as amillion exact duplicates. The only limits on production and consumption will be the humanimagination." Many of McLuhans other assertions are highly debatable. This one is not. Heis absolutely correct about the direction in which technology is moving. The material goodsof the future will be many things; but they will not be standardized. We are, in fact, racingtoward "overchoice"—the point at which the advantages of diversity and individualizationare cancelled by the complexity of the buyers decision-making process. * Where the process has begun, the results are striking. In Washington, D.C., for example, there is acomputer-designed apartment house—Watergate East—in which no two floors are alike. Of 240 apartments,167 have different floor plans. And there are no continuous straight lines in the building anywhere. COMPUTERS AND CLASSROOMSDoes any of this matter? Some people argue that diversity in the material environment isinsignificant so long as we are racing toward cultural or spiritual homogeneity. "Its whatsinside that counts," they say, paraphrasing a well-known cigarette commercial. This view gravely underestimates the importance of material goods as symbolicexpressions of human personality differences, and it foolishly denies a connection betweenthe inner and outer environment. Those who fear the standardization of human beings shouldwarmly welcome the destandardization of goods. For by increasing the diversity of goodsavailable to man we increase the mathematical probability of differences in the way menactually live. More important, however, is the very premise that we are racing toward culturalhomogeneity, since a close look at this also suggests that just the opposite is true. It isunpopular to say this, but we are moving swiftly toward fragmentation and diversity not onlyin material production, but in art, education and mass culture as well. One highly revealing test of cultural diversity in any literate society has to do with thenumber of different books published per million of population. The more standardized thetastes of the public, the fewer titles will be published per million; the more diverse thesetastes, the greater the number of titles. The increase or decrease of this figure over time is asignificant clue to the direction of cultural change in the society. This was the reasoningbehind a study of world book trends published by UNESCO. Conducted by Robert Escarpitdirector of the Center for the Sociology of Literature at the University of Bordeaux, itprovided dramatic evidence of a powerful international shift toward culturaldestandardization. Thus, between 1952 and 1962 the index of diversity rose in fully twenty-one of thetwenty-nine chief book-producing nations. Among the countries registering the highest shiftstoward literary diversity were Canada, the United States and Sweden, all with increases inexcess of 50 percent or more. The United Kingdom, France, Japan and the Netherlands allmoved from 10 to 25 percent in the same direction. The eight countries that moved in theopposite direction—i.e., toward greater standardization of literary outputwere India, Mexico,Argentina, Italy, Poland, Yugoslavia, Belgium, and Austria. In short, the more advanced the
technology in a country, the greater the likelihood that it would be moving in the direction ofliterary diversity and away from uniformity. The same push toward pluralism is evident in painting, too, where we find an almostincredibly wide spectrum of production. Representationalism, expressionism, surrealism,abstract expressionism, hard-edge, pop, kinetic, and a hundred other styles are pumped intothe society at the same time. One or another may dominate the galleries temporarily, but thereare no universal standards or styles. It is a pluralistic marketplace. When art was a tribal-religious activity, the painter worked for the whole community.Later he worked for a single small aristocratic elite. Still later the audience appeared as asingle undifferentiated mass. Today he faces a large audience split into a milling mass of sub-groups. According to John McHale: "The most uniform cultural contexts are typicallyprimitive enclaves. The most striking feature of our contemporary mass culture is the vastrange and diversity of its alternative cultural choices ... The mass, on even cursoryexamination, breaks down into many different audiences." Indeed, artists no longer attempt to work for a universal public. Even when they thinkthey are doing so, they are usually responding to the tastes and styles preferred by one oranother sub-group in the society. Like the manufacturers of pancake syrup and automobiles,artists, too, produce for "mini-markets." And as these markets multiply, artistic outputdiversifies. The push for diversity, meanwhile, is igniting bitter conflict in education. Ever sincethe rise of industrialism, education in the West, and particularly in the United States, has beenorganized for the mass production of basically standardized educational packages. It is notaccidental that at the precise moment when the consumer has begun to demand and obtaingreater diversity, the same moment when new technology promises to makedestandardization possible, a wave of revolt has begun to sweep the college campus. Thoughthe connection is seldom noticed, events on the campus and events in the consumer marketare intimately connected. One basic complaint of the student is that he is not treated as an individual, that he isserved up an undifferentiated gruel, rather than a personalized product. Like the Mustangbuyer, the student wants to design his own. The difference is that while industry is highlyresponsive to consumer demand, education typically has been indifferent to student wants.(In one case we say, "the customer knows best"; in the other, we insist that "Papa—or hiseducational surrogate—knows best.") Thus the student-consumer is forced to fight to makethe education industry responsive to his demand for diversity. While most colleges and universities have greatly broadened the variety of their courseofferings, they are still wedded to complex standardizing systems based on degrees, majorsand the like. These systems lay down basic tracks along which all students must progress.While educators are rapidly multiplying the number of alternative paths, the pace ofdiversification is by no means swift enough for the students. This explains why young peoplehave set up "para-universities"—experimental colleges and so-called free universities—inwhich each student is free to choose what he wishes from a mind-shattering smorgasbord ofcourses that range from guerrilla tactics and stock market techniques to Zen Buddhism and"underground theater." Long before the year 2000, the entire antiquated structure of degrees, majors and creditswill be a shambles. No two students will move along exactly the same educational track. Forthe students now pressuring higher education to destandardize, to move toward super-industrial diversity, will win their battle. It is significant, for example, that one of the chief results of the student strike in Francewas a massive decentralization of the university system. Decentralization makes possible
greater regional diversity, local authority to alter curriculum, student regulations andadministrative practices. A parallel revolution is brewing in the public schools as well. It has already flared intoopen violence. Like the disturbance at Berkeley that initiated the worldwide wave of studentprotest, it has begun with something that appears at first glimpse to be a purely local issue. Thus New York City, whose public education system encompasses nearly 900 schoolsand is responsible for one out of every forty American public school pupils, has suffered theworst teachers strike in history—precisely over the issue of decentralization. Teacher picketlines, parent boycotts, and near riot have become everyday occurrences in the citys schools.Angered by the ineffectiveness of the schools, and by what they rightfully regard as blatantrace prejudice, black parents, backed by various community forces, have demanded that theentire school system be cut up into smaller "community-run" school systems. In effect, New Yorks black population, having failed to achieve racial integration andquality education, wants its own school system. It wants courses in Negro history. It wantsgreater parental involvement with the schools than is possible in the present large,bureaucratic and ossified system. It claims, in short, the right to be different. The essential issues far transcend racial prejudice, however. Until now the big urbanschool systems in the United States have been powerful homogenizing influences. By fixingcity-wide standards and curricula, by choosing texts and personnel on a city-wide basis, theyhave imposed considerable uniformity on the schools. Today, the pressure for decentralization, which has already spread to Detroit,Washington, Milwaukee, and other major cities in the United States (and which will, indifferent forms, spread to Europe as well), is an attempt not simply to improve the educationof Negroes, but to smash the very idea of centralized, city-wide school policies. It is anattempt to generate local variety in public education by turning over control of the schools tolocal authorities. It is, in short, part of a larger struggle to diversify education in the last thirdof the twentieth century. That the effort has been temporarily blocked in New York, largelythrough the stubborn resistance of an entrenched trade union, does not mean that the historicforces pushing toward destandardization will forever be contained. Failure to diversify education within the system will simply lead to the growth ofalternative educational opportunities outside the system. Thus we have today the suggestionsof prominent educators and sociologists, including Kenneth B. Clark and Christopher Jencks,for the creation of new schools outside of, and competitive with, the official public schoolsystems. Clark has called for regional and state schools, federal schools, schools run bycolleges, trade unions, corporations and even military units. Such competing schools would,he contends, help create the diversity that education desperately needs. Simultaneously, in aless formal way, a variety of "para-schools" are already being established by hippiecommunes and other groups who find the mainstream educational system too homogeneous. We see here, therefore, a major cultural force in the society—education—being pushedto diversify its output, exactly as the economy is doing. And here, exactly as in the realm ofmaterial production, the new technology, rather than fostering standardization, carries ustoward super-industrial diversity. Computers, for example, make it easier for a large school to schedule more flexibly.They make it easier for the school to cope with independent study, with a wider range ofcourse offerings and more varied extracurricular activities. More important, computer-assisted education, programmed instruction and other such techniques, despite popularmisconceptions, radically enhance the possibility of diversity in the classroom. They permiteach student to advance at his own purely personal pace. They permit him to follow acustom-cut path toward knowledge, rather than a rigid syllabus as in the traditional industrialera classroom.
Moreover, in the educational world of tomorrow, that relic of mass production, thecentralized work place, will also become less important. Just as economic mass productionrequired large numbers of workers to be assembled in factories, educational mass productionrequired large numbers of students to be assembled in schools. This itself, with its demandsfor uniform discipline, regular hours, attendance checks and the like, was a standardizingforce. Advanced technology will, in the future, make much of this unnecessary. A good dealof education will take place in the students own room at home or in a dorm, at hours of hisown choosing. With vast libraries of data available to him via computerized informationretrieval systems, with his own tapes and video units, his own language laboratory and hisown electronically equipped study carrel, he will be freed, for much of the time, of therestrictions and unpleasantness that dogged him in the lockstep classroom. The technology upon which these new freedoms will be based will inevitably spreadthrough the schools in the years ahead—aggressively pushed, no doubt, by majorcorporations like IBM, RCA, and Xerox. Within thirty years, the educational systems of theUnited States, and several Western European countries as well, will have broken decisivelywith the mass production pedagogy of the past, and will have advanced into an era ofeducational diversity based on the liberating power of the new machines. In education, therefore, as in the production of material goods, the society is shiftingirresistibly away from, rather than toward, standardization. It is not simply a matter of morevaried automobiles, detergents and cigarettes. The social thrust toward diversity andincreased individual choice affects our mental, as well as our material surroundings. "DRAG QUEEN" MOVIESOf all the forces accused of homogenizing the modern mind, few have been so continuouslyand bitterly criticized as the mass media. Intellectuals in the United States and Europe havelambasted television, in particular, for standardizing speech, habits, and tastes. They havepictured it as a vast lawnroller flattening out our regional differences, crushing the lastvestiges of cultural variety. A thriving academic industry has leveled similar charges againstmagazines and movies. While there is truth in some of these charges, they overlook critically importantcounter-trends that generate diversity, not standardization. Television, with its high costs ofproduction and its limited number of channels, is still necessarily dependent upon very largeaudiences. But in almost every other communications medium we can trace a decreasingreliance on mass audiences. Everywhere the "market segmentation" process is at work. A generation ago, American movie-goers saw almost nothing but Hollywood-madefilms aimed at capturing the so-called mass audience. Today in cities across the country these"mainstream" movies are supplemented by foreign movies, art films, sex movies, and a wholestream of specialized motion pictures consciously designed to appeal to sub-markets—surfers, hot-rodders, motorcyclists, and the like. Output is so specialized that it is evenpossible, in New York at least, to find a theater patronized almost exclusively byhomosexuals who watch the antics of transvestites and "drag queens" filmed especially forthem. All this helps account for the trend toward smaller movie theaters in the United Statesand Europe. According to the Economist, "The days of the 4000-seater Trocadero ... are over... The old-style mass cinema audience of regular once-a-weekers has gone for good."Instead, multiple small audiences turn out for particular kinds of films, and the economics ofthe industry are up-ended. Thus Cinecenta has opened a cluster of four 150-seat theaters on asingle site in London, and other exhibitors are planning midget movie houses. Once again,
advanced technology fosters dehomogenization: the development of in-flight movies has ledto new low-cost 16 mm. projection systems that are made to order for the mini-movie. Theyrequire no projectionist and only a single machine, instead of the customary two. UnitedArtists is marketing these "cineautomats" on a franchise basis. Radio, too, though still heavily oriented toward the mass market, shows some signs ofdifferentiation. Some American stations beam nothing but classical music to upper-income,high education listeners, while others specialize in news, and still others in rock music. (Rockstations are rapidly subdividing into still finer categories: some aim their fare for the under-eighteen market; others for a somewhat older group; still others for Negroes.) There are evenrudimentary attempts to set up radio stations programming solely for a single profession—physicians, for example. In the future, we can anticipate networks that broadcast for suchspecialized occupational groups as engineers, accountants and attorneys. Still later, there willbe market segmentation not simply along occupational lines, but along socio-economic andpsycho-social lines as well. It is in publishing, however, that the signs of destandardization are most unmistakable.Until the rise of television, mass magazines were the chief standardizing media in mostcountries. Carrying the same fiction, the same articles and the same advertisements tohundreds of thousands, even millions of homes, they rapidly spread fashions, politicalopinions and styles. Like radio broadcasters and moviemakers, publishers tended to seek thelargest and most universal audience. The competition of television killed off a number of major American magazines suchas Colliers and Womans Home Companion. Those mass market publications that havesurvived the post-TV shake-up have done so, in part, by turning themselves into a collectionof regional and segmentalized editions. Between 1959 and 1969, the number of Americanmagazines offering specialized editions jumped from 126 to 235. Thus every large circulationmagazine in the United States today prints slightly different editions for different regions ofthe country—some publishers offering as many as one hundred variations. Special editionsare also addressed to occupational and other groups. The 80,000 physicians and dentists whoreceive Time each week get a somewhat different magazine than that received by teacherswhose edition, in turn, is different from that sent to college students. These "demographiceditions" are growing increasingly refined and specialized. In short, mass magazinepublishers are busily destandardizing, diversifying their output exactly as the automakers andappliance manufacturers have done. Furthermore, the rate of new magazine births has shot way up. According to theMagazine Publishers Association, approximately four new magazines have come into beingfor every one that died during the past decade. Every week sees a new small-circulationmagazine on the stands or in the mails, magazines aimed at mini-markets of surfers, scuba-divers and senior citizens, at hot-rodders, credit-card holders, skiers and jet passengers. Avaried crop of teenage magazines has sprung up, and most recently we have witnessedsomething no "mass society" pundit would have dared predict a few years ago: a rebirth oflocal monthlies. Today scores of American cities such as Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Diegoand Atlanta, boast fat, slick, well-supported new magazines devoted entirely to local orregional matters. This is hardly a sign of the erosion of differences. Rather, we are getting aricher mix, a far greater choice of magazines than ever before. And, as the UNESCO surveyshowed, the same is true of books. The number of different titles published each year has risen so sharply, and is now solarge (more than 30,000 in the United States) that one suburban matron has complained, "Itsgetting hard to find someone whos read the same book as you. How can you even carry on aconversation about reading?" She may be overstating the case, but book clubs, for example,
are finding it increasingly more difficult to choose monthly selections that appeal to largenumbers of divergent readers. Nor is the process of media differentiation confined to commercial publishing alone.Non-commercial literary magazines are proliferating. "Never in American history have therebeen as many such magazines as there are today," reports The New York Times Book Review.Similarly, "underground newspapers" have sprung up in dozens of American and Europeancities. There are at least 200 of these in the United States, many of them supported byadvertising placed by leading record manufacturers. Appealing chiefly to hippies, campusradicals and the rock audience, they have become a tangible force in the formation of opinionamong the young. From Londons IT and the East Village Other in New York, to the Kudzuin Jackson, Mississippi, they are heavily illustrated, often color-printed, and jammed with adsfor "psychedelicatessens" and dating services. Underground papers are even published inhigh schools. To observe the growth of these grass-roots publications and to speak of "massculture" or "standardization" is to blind oneself to the new realities. Significantly, this thrust toward media diversity is based not on affluence alone, but, aswe have seen before, on the new technology—the very machines that are supposedly going tohomogenize us and crush all vestiges of variety. Advances in offset printing and xerographyhave radically lowered the costs of short-run publishing, to the point at which high schoolstudents can (and do) finance publication of their underground press with pocket money.Indeed, the office copying machine—some versions selling now for as little as thirtydollars—makes possible such extremely short production runs that, as McLuhan puts it,every man can now be his own publisher. In America, where the office copying machine isalmost as universal as the adding machine, it would appear that every man is. The rocketingnumber of periodicals that land on ones desk is dramatic testimony to the ease of publication. Meanwhile, hand-held cameras and new video-tape equipment are similarlyrevolutionizing the ground rules of cinema. New technology has put camera and film into thehands of thousands of students and amateurs, and the underground movie—crude, colorful,perverse, highly individualized and localized—is flourishing even more than the undergroundpress. These technological advances have their analog in audio commmunications, too, wherethe omnipresence of tape recorders permits every man to be his own "broadcaster." AndreMoosmann, chief Eastern European expert for Radio-Television Française, reports theexistence of widely known pop singers in Russia and Poland who have never appeared onradio or television, but whose songs and voices have been popularized through the medium oftape recordings alone. Tapings of Bulat Okudzavas songs, for example, pass from hand tohand, each listener making his own duplicate—a process that totalitarian governments finddifficult to prevent or police. "It goes quickly," says Moosmann, "if a man makes one tapeand a friend makes two, the rate of increase can be very fast." Radicals have often complained that the means of communication are monopolized bya few. Sociologist C. Wright Mills went so far, if my memory is correct, as to urge culturalworkers to take over the means of communication. This turns out to be hardly necessary. Theadvance of communications technology is quietly and rapidly de-monopolizingcommunications without a shot being fired. The result is a rich destandardization of culturaloutput. Television, therefore, may still be homogenizing taste; but the other media have alreadypassed beyond the technological state at which standardization is necessary. When technicalbreakthroughs alter the economics of television by providing more channels and loweringcosts of production, we can anticipate that that medium, too, will begin to fragment its outputand cater to, rather than counter, the increasing diversity of the consuming public. Suchbreakthroughs are, in fact, closer than the horizon. The invention of electronic video
recording, the spread of cable television, the possibility of broadcasting direct from satelliteto cable systems, all point to vast increases in program variety. For it should now be clear thattendencies toward uniformity represent only one stage in the development of any technology.A dialectical process is at work, and we are on the edge of a long leap toward unparalleledcultural diversity. The day is already in sight when books, magazines, newspapers, films and other mediawill, like the Mustang, be offered to the consumer on a design-it-yourself basis. Thus in themid-sixties, Joseph Naughton, a mathematician and computer specialist at the University ofPittsburgh, suggested a system that would store a consumers profile—data about hisoccupation and interests—in a central computer. Machines would then scan newspapers,magazines, video tapes, films and other material, match them against the individuals interestprofile, and instantaneously notify him when something appears that concerns him. Thesystem could be hitched to facsimile machines and TV transmitters that would actuallydisplay or print out the material in his own living room. By 1969 the Japanese daily AsahiShimbun was publicly demonstrating a low cost "Telenews" system for printing newspapersin the home, and Matsushita Industries of Osaka was displaying a competitive system knownas TV Fax (H). These are the first steps toward the newspaper of the future—a peculiarnewspaper, indeed, offering no two viewer-readers the same content. Mass communication,under a system like this, is "de-massified." We move from homogeneity to heterogeneity. It is obstinate nonsense to insist, in the face of all this, that the machines of tomorrowwill turn us into robots, steal our individuality, eliminate cultural variety, etc., etc. Becauseprimitive mass production imposed certain uniformities, does not mean that super-industrialmachines will do the same. The fact is that the entire thrust of the future carries away fromstandardization—away from uniform goods, away from homogenized art, mass producededucation and "mass" culture. We have reached a dialectical turning point in thetechnological development of society. And technology, far from restricting our individuality,will multiply our choices—and our freedom—exponentially. Whether man is prepared to cope with the increased choice of material and culturalwares available to him is, however, a totally different question. For there comes a time whenchoice, rather than freeing the individual, becomes so complex, difficult and costly, that itturns into its opposite. There comes a time, in short, when choice turns into overchoice andfreedom into un-freedom. To understand why, we must go beyond this examination of our expanding material andcultural choice. We must look at what is happening to social choice as well.
Chapter 13 A SURFEIT OF SUBCULTSThirty miles north of New York City, within easy reach of its towers, its traffic and its urbantemptations, lives a young taxicab driver, a former soldier, who boasts 700 surgical stitches inhis body. These stitches are not the result of combat wounds, nor of an accident involving histaxi. Instead, they are the result of his chief recreation: rodeo riding. On a cab drivers modest salary, this man spends more than $1200 a year to own ahorse, stable it, and keep it in perfect trim. Periodically hitching a horsetrailer to his auto, hedrives a little over one hundred miles to a place outside Philadelphia called "Cow Town."There, with others like himself, he participates in roping, steer wrestling, bronco busting, andother strenuous contests, the chief prize of which have been repeated visits to a hospitalemergency ward. Despite its proximity, New York holds no fascination for this fellow. When I met himhe was twenty-three, and he had visited it only once or twice in his life. His entire interest isfocused on the cow ring, and he is a member of a tiny group of rodeo fanatics who form alittle-known underground in the United States. They are not professionals who earn a livingfrom this atavistic sport. Nor are they simply people who affect Western-style boots, hats,denim jackets and leather belts. They are a tiny, but authentic subcult lost within the vastnessand complexity of the most highly technological civilization in the world. This odd group not only engages the cab drivers passion, it consumes his time andmoney. It affects his family, his friends, his ideas. It provides a set of standards against whichhe measures himself. In short, it rewards him with something that many of us have difficultyfinding: an identity. The techno-societies, far from being drab and homogenized, are honeycombed with justsuch colorful groupings—hippies and hot rodders, theosophists and flying saucer fans, skin-divers and skydivers, homosexuals, computerniks, vegetarians, bodybuilders and BlackMuslims. Today the hammerblows of the super-industrial revolution are literally splintering thesociety. We are multiplying these social enclaves, tribes and minicults among us almost asfast as we are multiplying automotive options. The same destandardizing forces that make forgreater individual choice with respect to products and cultural wares, are also destandardizingour social structures. This is why, seemingly overnight, new subcults like the hippies burstinto being. We are, in fact, living through a "subcult explosion." The importance of this cannot be overstated. For we are all deeply influenced, ouridentities are shaped, by the subcults with which we choose, unconsciously or not, to identifyourselves. It is easy to ridicule a hippie or an uneducated young man who is willing to suffer700 stitches in an effort to test and "find" himself. Yet we are all rodeo riders or hippies inone sense: we, too, search for identity by attaching ourselves to informal cults, tribes orgroups of various kinds. And the more numerous the choices, the more difficult the quest. SCIENTISTS AND STOCKBROKERSThe proliferation of subcults is most evident in the world of work. Many subcults spring uparound occupational specialties. Thus, as the society moves toward greater specialization, itgenerates more and more subcultural variety.
The scientific community, for example, is splitting into finer and finer fragments. It iscriss-crossed with formal organizations and associations whose specialized journals,conferences and meetings are rapidly multiplying in number. But these "open" distinctionsaccording to subject matter are matched by "hidden" distinctions as well. It is not simply thatcancer researchers and astronomers do different things; they talk different languages, tend tohave different personality types; they think, dress and live differently. (So marked are thesedistinctions that they often interfere with interpersonal relationships. Says a woman scientist:"My husband is a microbiologist and I am a theoretical physicist, and sometimes I wonder ifwe mutually exist.") Scientists within a specialty tend to hang together with their own kind, formingthemselves into tight little subcultural cells, to which they turn for approval and prestige, aswell as for guidance about such things as dress, political opinions, and life style. As science expands and the scientific population grows, new specialties spring up,fostering more and still more diversity at this "hidden" or informal level. In short,specialization breeds subcults. This process of cellular division within a profession is dramatically marked in finance.Wall Street was once a relatively homogeneous community. "It used to be," says oneprominent sociological observer of the money men, "that you came down here from St. Paulsand you made a lot of money and belonged to the Racquet Club and you had an estate on theNorth Shore, and your daughters were debutantes. You did it all by selling bonds to your ex-classmates." The remark is perhaps slightly exaggerated, but Wall Street was, in fact, one bigWhite Anglo-Saxon Protestant subcult, and its members did tend to go to the same schools,join the same clubs, engage in the same sports (tennis, golf and squash), attend the samechurches (Presbyterian and Episcopalian), and vote for the same party (Republican). Anybody who still thinks of Wall Street in these terms, however, is getting his ideasfrom the novels of Auchincloss or Marquand rather than from the new, fast-changing reality.Today, Wall Street has splintered, and a young man entering the business has a choice of awhole clutch of competing subcultural affiliations. In investment banking the oldconservative WASP grouping still lingers on. There are still some old-line "white shoe" firmsof which it is said "Theyll have a black partner before they hire a few." Yet in the mutualfund field, a relatively new specialized segment of the financial industry, Greek, Jewish andChinese names abound, and some star salesmen are black. Here the entire style of life, theimplicit values of the group, are quite different. Mutual fund people are a separate tribe. "Not everyone even wants to be a WASP any more," says a leading financial writer.Indeed, many young, aggressive Wall Streeters, even when they do happen to be WASP inorigin, reject the classical Wall Street subcult and identify themselves instead with one ormore of the pluralistic social groupings that now swarm and sometimes collide in the canyonsof Lower Manhattan. As specialization continues, as research extends into new fields and probes more deeplyinto old ones, as the economy continues to create new technologies and services, subcultswill continue to multiply. Those social critics who inveigh against "mass society" in onebreath and denounce "over-specialization" in the next are simply flapping their tongues.Specialization means a movement away from sameness. Despite much loose talk about the need for "generalists," there is little evidence that thetechnology of tomorrow can be run without armies of highly trained specialists. We arerapidly changing the types of expertise needed. We are demanding more "multi-specialists"(men who know one field deeply, but who can cross over into another as well) rather thanrigid, "mono-specialists." But we shall continue to need and breed ever more refined workspecialties as the technical base of society increases in complexity For this reason alone, wemust expect the variety and number of subcults in the society to increase.
THE FUN SPECIALISTSEven if technology were to free millions of people from the need to work in the future, wewould find the same push toward diversity operating among those who are left free to play.For we are already producing large numbers of "fun specialists." We are rapidly multiplyingnot merely types of work, but types of play as well. The number of acceptable pastimes, hobbies, games, sports and entertainments isclimbing rapidly, and the growth of a distinct subcult built around surfing, for example,demonstrates that, at least for some, a leisure-time commitment can also serve as the basis foran entire life style. The surfing subcult is a signpost pointing to the future. "Surfing has already developed a kind of symbolism that gives it the character of asecret fraternity or a religious order," writes Remi Nadeau. "The identifying sign is a sharkstooth, St. Christopher medal, or Maltese cross hung loosely about ones neck ... For a longtime, the most accepted form of transportation has been a wood-paneled Ford station wagonof ancient vintage." Surfers display sores and nodules on their knees and feet as proud proofof their involvement. Suntan is de rigeur. Hair is styled in a distinctive way. Members of thetribe spend endless hours debating the prowess of such in-group heroes as J. J. Moon, and hisfollowers buy J. J. Moon T-shirts, surfboards, and fan club memberships. Surfers are only one of many such play-based subcults. Among skydivers, for example,the name J. J. Moon is virtually unknown, and so are the peculiar rituals and fashions of thewave-cresters. Skydivers talk, instead, about the feat of Rod Pack, who not long ago jumpedfrom an airplane without a parachute, was handed one by a companion in mid-air, put it on,opened it, and landed safely. Skydivers have their own little world, as do glider enthusiasts,scuba-divers, hot rodders, drag racers and motorcyclists. Each of these represents a leisure-based subcult organized around a technological device. As the new technology makes newsports possible, we can anticipate the formation of highly varied new play cults. Leisure-time pursuits will become an increasingly important basis for differencesbetween people, as the society itself shifts from a work orientation toward greaterinvolvement in leisure. In the United States, since the turn of the century alone, the societysmeasurable commitment to work has plummeted by nearly a third. This is a massiveredeployment of the societys time and energy. As this commitment declines further, we shalladvance into an era of breathtaking fun specialism—much of it based on sophisticatedtechnology. We can anticipate the formation of subcults built around space activity, holography,mind-control, deep-sea diving, submarining, computer gaming and the like. We can even seeon the horizon the creation of certain anti-social leisure cults—tightly organized groups ofpeople who will disrupt the workings of society not for material gain, but for the sheer sportof "beating the system"—a development foreshadowed in such films as Duffy and TheThomas Crown Affair. Such groups may attempt to tamper with governmental or corporatecomputer programs, re-route mail, intercept and alter radio and television broadcasts, performelaborately theatrical hoaxes, tinker with the stock market, corrupt the random samples uponwhich political or other polls are based, and even, perhaps, commit complexly plottedrobberies and assassinations. Novelist Thomas Pynchon in The Crying of Lot 49 describes afictional underground group who have organized their own private postal system andmaintained it for generations. Science fiction writer Robert Sheckley has gone so far as topropose, in a terrifying short story called The Seventh Victim, the possibility that societymight legalize murder among certain specified "players" who hunt one another and are, in
turn, hunted. This ultimate game would permit those who are dangerously violent to work offtheir aggressions within a managed framework. Bizarre as some of this may sound, it would be well not to rule out the seeminglyimprobable, for the realm of leisure, unlike that of work, is little constrained by practicalconsiderations. Here imagination has free play, and the mind of man can conjure upincredible varieties of "fun." Given enough time, money and, for some of these, technicalskill, the men of tomorrow will be capable of playing in ways never dreamed of before. Theywill play strange sexual games. They will play games with the mind. They will play gameswith society And in so doing, by choosing among the unimaginably broad options, they willform subcults and further set themselves off from one another. THE YOUTH GHETTOSubcults are multiplying—the society is cracking—along age lines, too. We are becoming"age specialists" as well as work and play specialists There was a time when people weredivided roughly into children, "young persons," and adults. It wasnt until the forties that theloosely defined term "young persons" began to be replaced by the more restrictive term"teenager," referring specifically to the years thirteen to nineteen. (In fact, the word wasvirtually unknown in England until after World War II.) Today this crude, three-way division is clearly inadequate, and we are busy inventingfar more specific categories. We now have a classification called "pre-teens" or "sub-teens"that sits perched between childhood and adolescence. We are also beginning to hear of "post-teens" and, after that, "young marrieds." Each of these terms is a linguistic recognition of thefact that we can no longer usefully lump all "young persons" together. Increasingly deepcleavages separate one age group from another. So sharp are these differences that sociologistJohn Lofland of the University of Michigan predicts they will become the "conflictequivalent of southerner and northerner, capitalist and worker, immigrant and native stock,suffragette and male, white and Negro." Lofland supports this startling suggestion by documenting the rise of what he calls the"youth ghetto"—large communities occupied almost entirely by college students. Like theNegro ghetto, the youth ghetto is often characterized by poor housing, rent and price gouging,very high mobility, unrest and conflict with the police. Like the Negro ghetto, it, too, is quiteheterogeneous, with many subcults competing for the attention and allegiance of theghettoites. Robbed of adult heroes or role models other than their own parents, children ofstreamlined, nuclear families are increasingly flung into the arms of the only other peopleavailable to them—other children. They spend more time with one another, and they becomemore responsive to the influence of peers than ever before. Rather than idolizing an uncle,they idolize Bob Dylan or Donovan or whomever else the peer group holds up for a life stylemodel. Thus we are beginning to form not only a college student ghetto, but even semi-ghettos of pre-teens and teenagers, each with its own peculiar tribal characteristics, its ownfads, fashions, heroes and villains. We are simultaneously segmenting the adult population along age lines, too. There aresuburbs occupied largely by young married couples with small children, or by middle-agedcouples with teenagers, or by older couples whose children have already left home. We havespecially-designed "retirement communities" for retirees. "There may come a day," ProfessorLofland warns, "... when some cities will find that their politics revolve around the votingstrength of various age category ghettos, in the same way that Chicago politics has longrevolved around ethnic and racial enclaves."
This emergence of age-based subcultures can now be seen as part of a stunninghistorical shift in the basis of social differentiation. Time is becoming more important as asource of differences among men; space is becoming less so. Thus communications theorist James W. Carey of the University of Illinois, points outthat "among primitive societies and in the earlier stages of western history, relatively smalldiscontinuities in space led to vast differences in culture ... Tribal societies separated by ahundred miles could have ... grossly dissimilar systems of expressive symbolism, myth andritual." Within these same societies, however, there was "great continuity ... over generations... vast differences between societies but relatively little variation between generations withina given society." Today, he continues, space "progressively disappears as a differentiating factor." But ifthere has been some reduction in regional variation, Carey takes pains to point out, "one mustnot assume that differences between groups are being obliterated ... as some mass societytheorists [suggest]." Rather, Carey points out, "the axis of diversity shifts from a spatial ... toa temporal or generational dimension." Thus we get jagged breaks between the generations—and Mario Savio summed it up with the revolutionary slogan, "Dont trust anyone overthirty!" In no previous society could such a slogan have caught on so quickly. Carey explains this shift from spatial to temporal differentiation by calling attention tothe advance of communications and transportation technology which spans great distances,and, in effect, conquers space. Yet there is another, easily overlooked factor at work: theacceleration of change. For as the pace of change in the external environment steps up, theinner differences between young and old become necessarily more marked. In fact, the paceof change is already so blinding that even a few years can make a great difference in the lifeexperience of the individual. This is why some brothers and sisters, separated in age by amere three or four years, subjectively feel themselves to be members of quite different"generations." It is why among those radicals who participated in the strike at ColumbiaUniversity, seniors spoke of the "generation gap" that separated them from sophomores. MARITAL TRIBESSplintering along occupational, recreational and age lines, the society is also fragmentingalong sexual-familial lines. Even now, however, we are already creating distinctive newsubcults based on marital status. Once people might be loosely classified as either single,married or widowed. Today this three-way categorization is no longer adequate. Divorcerates are so high in most of the techno-societies today that a distinct new social grouping hasemerged—those who are no longer married or who are between marriages. Thus MortonHunt, an authority on the subject, describes what he terms "the world of the formerlymarried." This group, says Hunt, is a "subculture ... with its own mechanisms for bringing peopletogether, its own patterns of adjustment to the separated or divorced life, its ownopportunities for friendship, social life and love." As its members break away from theirmarried friends, they become progressively isolated from those still in "married life" and "ex-marrieds," like "teen-agers" or "surfers," tend to form social enclaves of their own with theirown favored meeting places, their own attitudes toward time, their own distinct sexual codesand conventions. Strong trends make it likely that this particular social category will swell in the future.And when this happens, the world of the formerly married will, in turn, split into multipleworlds, more and still more sub-cultural groupings. For the bigger a subcult becomes, themore likely it is to fragment and give birth to new subcults.
If the first clue to the future of social organization lies, therefore, in the idea ofproliferating subcults, the second lies in sheer size. This basic principle is largely overlookedby those who are most exercised over "mass society," and it helps explain the persistence ofdiversity even under extreme standardizing pressures. Because of in-built limitations in socialcommunication, size itself acts as a force pushing toward diversity of organization. The largerthe population of a modern city, for example, the more numerous—and diverse—the subcultswithin it. Similarly, the larger the subcult, the higher the odds that it will fragment anddiversify. The hippies provide a perfect example. HIPPIES, INCORPORATEDIn the mid-fifties, a small group of writers, artists and assorted hangers-on coalesced in SanFrancisco and around Carmel and Big Sur on the California coast. Quickly dubbed "beats" or"beatniks," they pieced together a distinctive way of life. Its most conspicuous elements were the glorification of poverty—jeans, sandals, padsand hovels; a predilection for Negro jazz and jargon; an interest in Eastern mysticism andFrench existentialism; and a general antagonism to technologically based society. Despite extensive press coverage, the beats remained a tiny sect until a technologicalinnovation—lysergic acid, better known as LSD—appeared on the scene. Pushed by themessianic advertising of Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg and Ken Kesey, distributed free tothousands of young people by irresponsible enthusiasts, LSD soon began to claim a followingon the American campus, and almost as quickly spread to Europe as well. The infatuationwith LSD was accompanied by a new interest in marijuana, a drug with which the beats hadlong experimented. Out of these two sources, the beat subcult of the mid-fifties and the "acid"subcult of the early sixties, sprang a larger group—a new subcult that might be described as acorporate merger of the two: the hippie movement. Blending the blue jeans of the beats withthe beads and bangles of the acid crowd, the hippies became the newest and most hotlypublicized subcult on the American scene. Soon, however, the pressures of growth proved too much for it. Thousands of teen-agers joined the ranks; millions of pre-teens watched their television sets, read magazinearticles about the movement, and undulated in sympathy; some suburban adults even became"plastic" or weekend hippies. The result was predictable. The hippie subcult—exactly likeGeneral Motors or General Electric—was forced to divisionalize, to break down intosubsidiaries. Thus out of the hippie subcult came a shower of progeny. To the eye of the uninitiated, all young people with long hair seemed alike. Yetimportant sub-units emerged within the movement. According to David Andrew Seeley, anacute young observer, there were at its height "perhaps a score of recognizable and distinctgroups." These varied not only by certain subtleties of dress but by interest. Thus, Seeleyreported, their activities ranged "from beer parties to poetry readings, from pot-smoking tomodern dance—and often those who indulge in one wouldnt touch the other." Seeley thenproceeded to explain the differences that set apart such groups as the teeny-boppers (nowlargely vanished from the scene), the political activist beatniks, the folk beatniks, and then,and only then, the original hippies per se. Members of these subcultural subsidiaries wore identifying badges that held meaningfor insiders. Teeny-boppers, for example, were beardless, many, in fact, being too young toshave. Sandals were "in" with the folk set, but not some of the others. The tightness of onestrousers varied according to subcult. At the level of ideas, there were many common complaints about the dominant culture.But sharp differences emerged with respect to political and social action. Attitudes ranged
from the conscious withdrawal of the acid hippie, through the ignorant unconcern of theteeny-bopper, to the intense involvement of the New Left activist and the politics-of-the-absurd activities of groupings like the Dutch provos, the Crazies, and the guerrilla theatercrowd. The hippie corporation, so to speak, grew too large to handle all its business in astandardized way. It had to diversify and it did. It spawned a flock of fledgling subculturalenterprises. TRIBAL TURNOVEREven as this happened, however, the movement began to die. The most passionate LSDadvocates of yesterday began to admit that "acid was a bad scene" and various undergroundnewspapers began warning followers against getting too involved with "tripsters." A mockfuneral was held in San Francisco to "bury" the hippie subcult, and its favored locations,Haight-Ashbury and the East Village turned into tourist meccas as the original movementwrithed and disintegrated, forming new and odder, but smaller and weaker subcults and mini-tribes. Then, as though to start the process all over again, yet another subcult, the"skinheads," surfaced. Skinheads had their own characteristic outfits—suspenders, boots,short haircuts—and an unsettling predilection for violence. The death of the hippie movement and the rise of the skinheads provide a crucial newinsight into the subcultural structure of tomorrows society. For we are not merelymultiplying subcults. We are turning them over more rapidly. The principle of transience is atwork here, too. As the rate of change accelerates in all other aspects of the society, subcults,too, grow more ephemeral. Evidence pointing toward a decrease in the life span of subcults also lies in thedisappearance of that violent subcult of the fifties, the fighting street gang. Throughout thatdecade certain streets in New York were regularly devastated by a peculiar form of urbanwarfare called the "rumble." During a rumble, scores, if not hundreds, of youths would attackone another with flailing chains, switchblade knives, broken bottles and zip-guns. Rumblesoccurred in Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and even as far away as London and Tokyo. While there was no direct connection between these far-flung outbreaks, rumbles wereby no means chance events. They were planned and carried out with military precision byhighly organized "bopping gangs." In New York these gangs affected colorful names—Cobras, Corsair Lords, Apaches, Egyptian Kings and the like. They fought one another fordominance in their "turf"—the specific geographic area they staked out for themselves. At their peak there were some 200 such gangs in New York alone, and in a single year,1958, they accounted for no fewer than eleven homicides. Yet by 1966, according to policeofficials, the bopping gangs had virtually vanished. Only one gang was left in New York, andThe New York Times reported: "No one knows on what garbage strewn street ... the lastrumble took place. But it happened four or five years ago [which would date the death of therumble a mere two or three years after the 1958 peak]. Then, suddenly, after a decade ofmounting violence the era of the fighting gangs of New York came to an end." The sameappeared to be true in Washington, Newark, Philadelphia and elsewhere as well. The disappearance of the violent street gangs has not, of course, led to an era of urbantranquility. The aggressive passions that led poor Puerto Rican and Negro youths in NewYork to wage war on rival gangs is now directed at the social system itself, and totally newkinds of social organizations, subcults and life style groupings are emerging in the ghetto. What we sense, therefore, is a process by which subcults multiply at an everaccelerating rate, and in turn die off to make room for still more and newer subcults. A kind
of metabolic process is taking place in the bloodstream of the society, and it is speeding upexactly as other aspects of social interaction are quickening. For the individual, this raises the problems of choice to a totally new level of intensity.It is not simply that the number of tribes is expanding rapidly. It is not even that these tribesor subcults are bouncing off one another, shifting and changing their relationships to oneanother more and more rapidly. It is also that many of them will not hold still long enough topermit an individual to make a rational investigation of the presumed advantages ordisadvantages of affiliation. The individual searching for some sense of belonging, looking for the kind of socialconnection that confers some sense of identity, moves through a blurry environment in whichthe possible targets of affiliation are all in high-speed motion. He must choose from among agrowing number of moving targets. The problems of choice thus escalate not arithmetically,but geometrically. At the very instant when his choices among material goods, education, cultureconsumption, recreation and entertainment are all multiplying, he is also given a bewilderingarray of social choices. And just as there is a limit to how much choice he may wish toexercise in buying a car—at a certain point the addition of options requires more decision-making than they are worth—so, too, we may soon approach the moment of socialoverchoice. The level of personality disorder, neurosis, and just plain psychological distress in oursociety suggests that it is already difficult for many individuals to create a sensible,integrated, and reasonably stable personal style. Yet there is every evidence that the thrusttoward social diversity, paralleling that at the level of goods and culture, is just beginning.We face a tempting and terrifying extension of freedom. THE IGNOBLE SAVAGEThe more subcultural groupings in a society, the greater the potential freedom of theindividual. This is why pre-industrial man, despite romantic myths to the contrary, sufferedso bitterly from lack of choice. While sentimentalists prattle about the supposedly unfettered freedom of the primitive,evidence collected by anthropologists and historians contradicts them. John Gardner puts thematter tersely: "The primitive tribe or pre-industrial community has usually demanded farmore profound submission of the individual to the group than has any modern society." As anAustralian social scientist was told by a Temne tribesman in Sierra Leone: "When Temnepeople choose a thing, we must all agree with the decision—this is what we call cooperation." This is, of course, what we call conformity. The reason for the crushing conformity required of pre-industrial man, the reason theTemne tribesman has to "go along" with his fellows, is precisely that he has nowhere else togo. His society is monolithic, not yet broken into a liberating multiplicity of components. It iswhat sociologists call "undifferentiated." Like a bullet smashing into a pane of glass, industrialism shatters these societies,splitting them up into thousands of specialized agencies—schools, corporations, governmentbureaus, churches, armies—each subdivided into smaller and still more specialized subunits.The same fragmentation occurs at the informal level, and a host of subcults spring up: rodeoriders, Black Muslims, motorcyclists, skinheads and all the rest. This split-up of the social order is precisely analogous to the process of growth inbiology. Embryos differentiate as they develop, forming more and more specialized organs.The entire march of evolution, from the virus to man, displays a relentless advance toward
higher and higher degrees of differentiation. There appears to be a seemingly irresistiblemovement of living beings and social groups from less to more differentiated forms. Thus it is not accidental that we witness parallel trends toward diversity—in theeconomy, in art, in education and mass culture, in the social order itself. These trends all fittogether forming part of an immensely larger historic process. The Super-industrialRevolution can now be seen for what, in large measure, it is—the advance of human societyto its next higher stage of differentiation. This is why it often seems to us that our society is cracking at the seams. It is. This iswhy everything grows increasingly complex. Where once there stood 1000 organizationalentities, there now stand 10,000—interconnected by increasingly transient links. Where oncethere were a few relatively permanent subcults with which a person might identify, there noware thousands of temporary subcults milling about, colliding and multiplying. The powerfulbonds that integrated industrial society—bonds of law, common values, centralized andstandardized education and cultural production—are breaking down. All this explains why cities suddenly seem to be "unmanageable" and universities"ungovernable." For the old ways of integrating a society, methods based on uniformity,simplicity, and permanence, are no longer effective. A new, more finely fragmented socialorder—a super-industrial order—is emerging. It is based on many more diverse and short-lived components than any previous social system—and we have not yet learned how to linkthem together, how to integrate the whole. For the individual, this leap to a new level of differentiation holds awesomeimplications. But not the ones most people fear. We have been told so often that we areheading for faceless uniformity that we fail to appreciate the fantastic opportunities forindividuality that the Super-industrial Revolution brings with it. And we have hardly begunto think about the dangers of over-individualization that are also implicit in it. The "mass society" theorists are obsessed by a reality that has already begun to pass usby. The Cassandras who blindly hate technology and predict an ant-heap future are stillresponding in knee-jerk fashion to the conditions of industrialism. Yet this system is alreadybeing superseded. To denounce the conditions that imprison the industrial worker today is admirable. Toproject these conditions into the future, and predict the death of individualism, diversity andchoice, is to utter dangerous clichés. The people of both past and present are still locked into relatively choiceless life ways.The people of the future, whose number increases daily, face not choice but overchoice. Forthem there comes an explosive extension of freedom. And this freedom comes not in spite of the new technology but very largely because ofit. For if the early technology of industrialism required mindless, robot-like men to performendlessly repetitive tasks, the technology of tomorrow takes over precisely these tasks,leaving for men only those functions that require judgment, interpersonal skills andimagination. Super-industrialism requires, and will create, not identical "mass men," butpeople richly different from one another, individuals, not robots. The human race, far from being flattened into monotonous conformity, will become farmore diverse socially than it ever was before. The new society, the super-industrial societynow beginning to take form, will encourage a crazy-quilt pattern of evanescent life styles.
Chapter 14 A DIVERSITY OF LIFE STYLESIn San Francisco, executives lunch at restaurants where they are served by bare-breastedwaitresses. In New York, however, a kooky girl cellist is arrested for performing avant gardemusic in a topless costume. In St. Louis, scientists hire prostitutes and others to copulateunder a camera as part of a study of the physiology of the orgasm. But in Columbus, Ohio,civic controversy erupts over the sale of so-called "Little Brother" dolls that come from thefactory equipped with male genitalia. In Kansas City, a conference of homosexualorganizations announces a campaign to lift a Pentagon ban on homosexuals in the armedforces and, in fact, the Pentagon discreetly does so. Yet American jails are well populatedwith men arrested for the crime of homosexuality. Seldom has a single nation evinced greater confusion over its sexual values. Yet thesame might be said for other kinds of values as well. America is tortured by uncertainty withrespect to money, property, law and order, race, religion, God, family and self. Nor is theUnited States alone in suffering from a kind of value vertigo. All the techno-societies arecaught up in the same massive upheaval. This collapse of the values of the past has hardlygone unnoticed. Every priest, politician and parent is reduced to head-shaking anxiety by it.Yet most discussions of value change are barren for they miss two essential points. The firstof these is acceleration. Value turnover is now faster than ever before in history. While in the past a mangrowing up in a society could expect that its public value system would remain largelyunchanged in his lifetime, no such assumption is warranted today, except perhaps in the mostisolated of pre-technological communities. This implies temporariness in the structure of both public and personal value systems,and it suggests that whatever the content of values that arise to replace those of the industrialage, they will be shorter-lived, more ephemeral than the values of the past. There is noevidence whatsoever that the value systems of the techno-societies are likely to return to a"steady state" condition. For the foreseeable future, we must anticipate still more rapid valuechange. Within this context, however, a second powerful trend is unfolding. For thefragmentation of societies brings with it a diversification of values. We are witnessing thecrack-up of consensus. Most previous societies have operated with a broad central core of commonly sharedvalues. This core is now contracting, and there is little reason to anticipate the formation of anew broad consensus within the decades ahead. The pressures are outward toward diversity,not inward toward unity. This accounts for the fantastically discordant propaganda that assails the mind in thetechno-societies. Home, school, corporation, church, peer group, mass media—and myriadsubcults—all advertise varying sets of values. The result for many is an "anything goes"attitude—which is, itself, still another value position. We are, declares Newsweek magazine,"a society that has lost its consensus ... a society that cannot agree on standards of conduct,language and manners, on what can be seen and heard." This picture of a cracked consensus is confirmed by the findings of Walter Gruen,social science research coordinator at Rhode Island Hospital, who has conducted a series ofstatistical studies of what he terms "the American core culture." Rather than the monolithicsystem of beliefs attributed to the middle class by earlier investigators, Gruen found—to his
own surprise—that "diversity in beliefs was more striking than the statistically supporteduniformities. It is," he concluded, "perhaps already misleading to talk of an Americanculture complex." Gruen suggests that particularly among the affluent, educated group, consensus isgiving way to what he calls "pockets" of values. We can expect that, as the number andvariety of subcults continues to expand, these pockets will proliferate, too. Faced with colliding value systems, confronted with a blinding array of new consumergoods, services, educational, occupational and recreational options, the people of the futureare driven to make choices in a new way. They begin to "consume" life styles the way peopleof an earlier, less choice-choked time consumed ordinary products. MOTORCYCLISTS AND INTELLECTUALSDuring Elizabethan times, the term "gentleman" referred to a whole way of life, not simplyan accident of birth. Appropriate lineage may have been a prerequisite, but to be a gentlemanone had also to live in a certain style: to be better educated, have better manners, wear betterclothes than the masses; to engage in certain recreations (and not others); to live in a large,well-furnished house; to maintain a certain aloofness with subordinates; in short, never tolose sight of his class "superiority." The merchant class had its own preferred life style and the peasantry still another.These life styles, like that of the gentleman, were pieced together out of many differentcomponents, ranging from residence, occupation and dress to jargon, gesture and religion.Today we still create our life styles by forming a mosaic of components. But much haschanged. Life style is no longer simply a manifestation of class position. Classes themselvesare breaking up into smaller units. Economic factors are declining in importance. Thus todayit is not so much ones class base as ones ties with a subcult that determine the individualsstyle of life. The working-class hippie and the hippie who dropped out of Exeter or Etonshare a common style of life but no common class. Since life style has become the way in which the individual expresses his identificationwith this or that subcult, the explosive multiplication of subcults in society has brought withit an equally explosive multiplication of life styles. Thus the stranger launched into Americanor English or Japanese or Swedish society today must choose not among four or five class-based styles of life, but among literally hundreds of diverse possibilities. Tomorrow, assubcults proliferate, this number will be even larger. How we choose a life style, and what it means to us, therefore, looms as one of thecentral issues of the psychology of tomorrow. For the selection of a life style, whetherconsciously done or not, powerfully shapes the individuals future. It does this by imposingorder, a set of principles or criteria on the choices he makes in his daily life. This becomes clear if we examine how such choices are actually made. The youngcouple setting out to furnish their apartment may look at literally hundreds of differentlamps—Scandinavian, Japanese, French Provincial, Tiffany lamps, hurricane lamps,American colonial lamps—dozens, scores of different sizes, models and styles beforeselecting, say, the Tiffany lamp. Having surveyed a "universe" of possibilities, they zero inon one. In the furniture department, they again scan an array of alternatives, then settle on aVictorian end table. This scan-and-select procedure is repeated with respect to rugs, sofa,drapes, dining room chairs, etc. In fact, something like this same procedure is followed notmerely in furnishing their home, but also in their adoption of ideas, friends, even thevocabulary they use and the values they espouse.
While the society bombards the individual with a swirling, seemingly patternless set ofalternatives, the selections made are anything but random. The consumer (whether of endtables or ideas) comes armed with a pre-established set of tastes and preferences. Moreover,no choice is wholly independent. Each is conditioned by those made earlier. The couplesselection of an end table has been conditioned by their previous choice of a lamp. In short,there is a certain consistency, an attempt at personal style, in all our actions—whetherconsciously recognized or not. The American male who wears a button-down collar and garter-length socks probablyalso wears wing-tip shoes and carries an attaché case. If we look closely, chances are we shallfind a facial expression and brisk manner intended to approximate those of the stereotypicalexecutive. The odds are astronomical that he will not let his hair grow wild in the manner ofrock musician Jimi Hendrix. He knows, as we do, that certain clothes, manners, forms ofspeech, opinions and gestures hang together, while others do not. He may know this only by"feel," or "intuition," having picked it up by observing others in the society, but theknowledge shapes his actions. The black-jacketed motorcyclist who wears steel-studded gauntlets and an obsceneswastika dangling from his throat completes his costume with rugged boots, not loafers orwing-tips. He is likely to swagger as he walks and to grunt as he mouths his anti-authoritarianplatitudes. For he, too, values consistency. He knows that any trace of gentility orarticulateness would destroy the integrity of his style. STYLE-SETTERS AND MINI-HEROESWhy do the motorcyclists wear black jackets? Why not brown or blue? Why do executives inAmerica prefer attaché cases, rather than the traditional briefcase? It is as though they werefollowing some model, trying to attain some ideal laid down from above. We know little about the origin of life style models. We do know, however, thatpopular heroes and celebrities, including fictional characters (James Bond, for example), havesomething to do with it. Marlon Brando, swaggering in a black jacket as a motorcyclist, perhaps originated, andcertainly publicized a life style model. Timothy Leary, robed, beaded, and muttering mysticpseudo profundities about love and LSD, provided a model for thousands of youths. Suchheroes, as the sociologist Orrin Klapp puts it, help to "crystallize a social type." He cites thelate James Dean who depicted the alienated adolescent in the movie Rebel Without a Causeor Elvis Presley who initially fixed the image of the guitar-twanging rock-n-roller. Latercame the Beatles with their (at that time) outrageous hair and exotic costumes. "One of theprime functions of popular favorites," says Klapp, "is to make types visible, which in turnmake new life styles and new tastes visible." Yet the style-setter need not be a mass media idol. He may be almost unknown outsidea particular subcult. Thus for years Lionel Trilling, an English professor at Columbia, was thefather figure for the West Side Intellectuals, a New York subcult well known in literary andacademic circles in the United States. The mother figure was Mary McCarthy, long beforeshe achieved popular fame. An acute article by John Speicher in a youth magazine called Cheetah listed some ofthe better-known life style models to which young people were responding in the late sixties.They ranged from Ché Guevara to William Buckley, from Bob Dylan and Joan Baez toRobert Kennedy. "The American youth bag," wrote Speicher, lapsing into hippie jargon, "isovercrowded with heroes." And, he adds, "where heroes are, there are followers, cultists."
To the subcult member, its heroes provide what Speicher calls the "crucial existentialnecessity of psychological identity." This is, of course, hardly new. Earlier generationsidentified with Charles Lindbergh or Theda Bara. What is new and highly significant,however, is the fabulous proliferation of such heroes and mini-heroes. As subcults multiplyand values diversify, we find, in Speichers words, "a national sense of identity hopelesslyfragmented." For the individual, he says, this means greater choice: "There is a wide range ofcults available, a wide range of heroes. You can do comparison shopping." LIFE STYLE FACTORIESWhile charismatic figures may become style-setters, styles are fleshed out and marketed tothe public by the sub-societies or tribe-lets we have termed subcults. Taking in raw symbolicmatter from the mass media, they somehow piece together odd bits of dress, opinion, andexpression and form them into a coherent package: a life style model. Once they haveassembled a particular model, they proceed, like any good corporation, to merchandise it.They find customers for it. Anyone doubting this is advised to read the letters of Allen Ginsberg to Timothy Leary,the two men most responsible for creating the hippie life style, with its heavy accent on druguse. Says poet Ginsberg: "Yesterday got on TV with N. Mailer and Ashley Montagu andgave big speech ... recommending everybody get high ... Got in touch with all the liberal pro-dope people I know to have [a certain pro-drug report] publicized and circulated ... I wrote afive-page summary of the situation to this friend Kenny Love on The New York Times and hesaid hed perhaps do a story (newswise) ... which could then be picked up by U.P. friend onnational wire. Also gave copy to Al Aronowitz on New York Post and Rosalind Constable atTime and Bob Silvers on Harpers..." No wonder LSD and the whole hippie phenomenon received the immense mass mediapublicity it did. This partial account of Ginsbergs energetic press agentry, complete with theMadison Avenue suffix "-wise" (as in newswise), reads precisely like an internal memo fromHill and Knowlton or any of the other giant public relations corporations whom hippies loveto flagellate for manipulating public opinion. The successful "sale" of the hippie life stylemodel to young people all over the techno-societies, is one of the classic merchandisingstories of our time. Not all subcults are so aggressive and talented at flackery, yet their cumulative powerin the society is enormous. This power stems from our almost universal desperation to"belong." The primitive tribesman feels a strong attachment to his tribe. He knows that he"belongs" to it, and may even have difficulty imagining himself apart from it. The techno-societies are so large, however, and their complexities so far beyond the comprehension ofany individual, that it is only by plugging in to one or more of their subcults, that we maintainsome sense of identity and contact with the whole. Failure to identify with some such groupor groups condemns us to feelings of loneliness, alienation and ineffectuality. We begin towonder "who we are." In contrast, the sense of belonging, of being part of a social cell larger than ourselves(yet small enough to be comprehensible) is often so rewarding that we feel deeply drawn,sometimes even against our own better judgment, to the values, attitudes and most-favoredlife style of the group. However, we pay for the benefits we receive. For once we psychologically affiliatewith a subcult, it begins to exert pressures on us. We find that it pays to "go along" with thegroup. It rewards us with warmth, friendship and approval when we conform to its life style
model. But it punishes us ruthlessly with ridicule, ostracism or other tactics when we deviatefrom it. Hawking their preferred life style models, subcults clamor for our attention. In sodoing, they act directly on our most vulnerable psychological property, our self-image. "Joinus," they whisper, "and you become a bigger, better, more effective, more respected and lesslonely person." In choosing among the fast-proliferating subcults we may only vaguely sensethat our identity will be shaped by our decision, but we feel the hot urgency of their appealsand counter-appeals. We are buffeted back and forth by their psychological promises. At the moment of choice among them, we resemble the tourist walking down BourbonStreet in New Orleans. As he strolls past the honky-tonks and clip joints, doormen grab himby the arm, spin him around, and open a door so he can catch a titillating glimpse of thenaked flesh of the strippers on the platform behind the bar. Subcults reach out to capture usand appeal to our most private fantasies in ways far more powerful and subtle than any yetdevised by Madison Avenue. What they offer is not simply a skin show or a new soap or detergent. They offer not aproduct, but a super-product. It is true they hold out the promise of human warmth,companionship, respect, a sense of community. But so do the advertisers of deodorants andbeer. The "miracle ingredient," the exclusive component, the one thing that subcults offer thatother hawkers cannot, is a respite from the strain of overchoice. For they offer not a singleproduct or idea, but a way of organizing all products and ideas, not a single commodity but awhole style, a set of guidelines that help the individual reduce the increasing complexity ofchoice to manageable proportions. Most of us are desperately eager to find precisely such guidelines. In the welter ofconflicting moralities, in the confusion occasioned by overchoice, the most powerful, mostuseful "super-product" of all is an organizing principle for ones life. This is what a life styleoffers. THE POWER OF STYLEOf course, not just any life style will do. We live in a Cairo bazaar of competing models. Inthis psychological phantasmagoria we search for a style, a way of ordering our existence, thatwill fit our particular temperament and circumstances. We look for heroes or mini-heroes toemulate. The style-seeker is like the lady who flips through the pages of a fashion magazineto find a suitable dress pattern. She studies one after another, settles on one that appeals toher, and decides to create a dress based on it. Next she begins to collect the necessarymaterials—cloth, thread, piping, buttons, etc. In precisely the same way, the life style creatoracquires the necessary props. He lets his hair grow. He buys art nouveau posters and apaperback of Guevaras writings. He learns to discuss Marcuse and Frantz Fanon. He picksup a particular jargon, using words like "relevance" and "establishment." None of this means that his political actions are insignificant, or that his opinions areunjust or foolish. He may (or may not) be accurate in his views of society. Yet the particularway in which he chooses to express them is inescapably part of his search for personal style. The lady, in constructing her dress, alters it here and there, deviating from the pattern inminor ways to make it fit her more perfectly. The end product is truly custom-made; yet itbears a striking resemblance to others sewn from the same design. In quite the same way weindividualize our style of living, yet it usually winds up bearing a distinct resemblance tosome life style model previously packaged and marketed by a subcult. Often we are unaware of the moment when we commit ourselves to one life stylemodel over all others. The decision to "be" an Executive or a Black Militant or a West Side
Intellectual is seldom the result of purely logical analysis. Nor is the decision always madecleanly, all at once. The research scientist who switches from cigarettes to a pipe may do sofor health reasons without recognizing that the pipe is part of a whole life style toward whichhe finds himself drawn. The couple who choose the Tiffany lamp think they are furnishing anapartment; they do not necessarily see their actions as an attempt to flesh out an overall styleof life. Most of us, in fact, do not think of our own lives in terms of life style, and we oftenhave difficulty in talking about it objectively. We have even more trouble when we try toarticulate the structure of values implicit in our style. The task is doubly hard because manyof us do not adopt a single integrated style, but a composite of elements drawn from severaldifferent models. We may emulate both Hippie and Surfer. We may choose a cross betweenWest Side Intellectual and Executive—a fusion that is, in fact, chosen by many publishingofficials in New York. When ones personal style is a hybrid, it is frequently difficult todisentangle the multiple models on which it is based. Once we commit ourselves to a particular model, however, we fight energetically tobuild it, and perhaps even more so to preserve it against challenge. For the style becomesextremely important to us. This is doubly true of the people of the future, among whomconcern for style is downright passionate. This intense concern for style is not, however, whatliterary critics mean by formalism. It is not simply an interest in outward appearances. Forstyle of life involves not merely the external forms of behavior, but the values implicit in thatbehavior, and one cannot change ones life style without working some change in ones self-image. The people of the future are not "style conscious" but "life style conscious." This is why little things often assume great significance for them. A single small detailof ones life may be charged with emotional power if it challenges a hard-won life style, if itthreatens to break up the integrity of the style. Aunt Ethel gives us a wedding present. We areembarrassed by it, for it is in a style alien to our own. It irritates and upsets us, even thoughwe know that "Aunt Ethel doesnt know any better." We banish it hastily to the top shelf ofthe closet. Aunt Ethels toaster or tablewear is not important, in and of itself. But it is a messagefrom a different subcultural world, and unless we are weak in commitment to our own style,unless we happen to be in transition between styles, it represents a potent threat. Thepsychologist Leon Festinger coined the term "cognitive dissonance" to mean the tendency ofa person to reject or deny information that challenges his preconceptions. We dont want tohear things that may upset our carefully worked out structure of beliefs. Similarly, AuntEthels gift represents an element of "stylistic dissonance." It threatens to undermine ourcarefully worked out style of life. Why does the life style have this power to preserve itself? What is the source of ourcommitment to it? A life style is a vehicle through which we express ourselves. It is a way oftelling the world which particular subcult or subcults we belong to. Yet this hardly accountsfor its enormous importance to us. The real reason why life styles are so significant—andincreasingly so as the society diversifies—is that, above all else, the choice of a life stylemodel to emulate is a crucial strategy in our private war against the crowding pressures ofoverchoice. Deciding, whether consciously or not, to be "like" William Buckley or Joan Baez,Lionel Trilling or his surfer equivalent, J. J. Moon, rescues us from the need to make millionsof minute life-decisions. Once a commitment to a style is made, we are able to rule out manyforms of dress and behavior, many ideas and attitudes, as inappropriate to our adopted style.The college boy who chooses the Student Protester Model wastes little energy agonizing overwhether to vote for Wallace, carry an attaché case, or invest in mutual funds.
By zeroing in on a particular life style we exclude a vast number of alternatives fromfurther consideration. The fellow who opts for the Motorcyclist Model need no longerconcern himself with the hundreds of types of gloves available to him on the open market,but which violate the spirit of his style. He need only choose among the far smaller repertoireof glove types that fit within the limits set by his model. And what is said of gloves is equallyapplicable to his ideas and social relationships as well. The commitment to one style of life over another is thus a super-decision. It is adecision of a higher order than the general run of everyday life-decisions. It is a decision tonarrow the range of alternatives that will concern us in the future. So long as we operatewithin the confines of the style we have chosen, our choices are relatively simple. Theguidelines are clear. The subcult to which we belong helps us answer any questions; it keepsthe guidelines in place. But when our style is suddenly challenged, when something forces us to reconsider it,we are driven to make another super-decision. We face the painful need to transform not onlyourselves, but our self-image as well. It is painful because, freed of our commitment to any given style, cut adrift from thesubcult that gave rise to it, we no longer "belong." Worse yet, our basic principles are calledinto question and we must face each new life-decision afresh, alone, without the security of adefinite, fixed policy. We are, in short, confronted with the full, crushing burden ofoverchoice again. A SUPERABUNDANCE OF SELVESTo be "between styles" or "between subcults" is a life-crisis, and the people of the futurespend more time in this condition, searching for styles, than do the people of the past orpresent. Altering his identity as he goes, super-industrial man traces a private trajectorythrough a world of colliding subcults. This is the social mobility of the future: not simplymovement from one economic class to another, but from one tribal grouping to another.Restless movement from subcult to ephemeral subcult describes the arc of his life. There are plenty of reasons for this restlessness. It is not merely that the individualspsychological needs change more often than in the past; the subcults also change. For theseand other reasons, as subcult membership becomes ever more unstable, the search for apersonal style will become increasingly intense, even frenetic in the decades to come. Againand again, we shall find ourselves bitter or bored, vaguely dissatisfied with "the way thingsare"—upset, in other words, with our present style. At that moment, we begin once more tosearch for a new principle around which to organize our choices. We arrive again at themoment of super-decision. At this moment, if anyone studied our behavior closely, he would find a sharp increasein what might be called the Transience Index. The rate of turnover of things, places, people,organizational and informational relationships spurts upward. We get rid of that silk dress ortie, the old Tiffany lamp, that horror of a claw-footed Victorian end table—all those symbolsof our links with the subcult of the past. We begin, bit by bit, to replace them with new itemsemblematic of our new identification. The same process occurs in our social lives—thethrough-put of people speeds up. We begin to reject ideas we have held (or to explain them orrationalize them in new ways). We are suddenly free of all the constraints that our subcult orstyle imposed on us. A Transience Index would prove a sensitive indicator of those momentsin our lives when we are most free—but, at the same time, most lost. It is in this interval that we exhibit the wild oscillation engineers call "searchingbehavior." We are most vulnerable now to the messages of new subcults, to the claims and
counterclaims that rend the air. We lean this way and that. A powerful new friend, a new fador idea, a new political movement, some new hero rising from the depths of the massmedia—all these strike us with particular force at such a moment. We are more "open," moreuncertain, more ready for someone or some group to tell us what to do, how to behave. Decisions—even little ones—come harder. This is not accidental. To cope with thepress of daily life we need more information about far more trivial matters than when wewere locked into a firm life style. And so we feel anxious, pressured, alone, and we move on.We choose or allow ourselves to be sucked into a new subcult. We put on a new style. As we rush toward super-industrialism, therefore, we find people adopting anddiscarding life styles at a rate that would have staggered the members of any previousgeneration. For the life style itself has become a throw-away item. This is no small or easy matter. It accounts for the much lamented "loss ofcommitment" that is so characteristic of our time. As people shift from subcult to subcult,from style to style, they are conditioned to guard themselves against the inevitable pain ofdisaffiliation. They learn to armor themselves against the sweet sorrow of parting. Theextremely devout Catholic who throws over his religion and plunges into the life of a NewLeft activist, then throws himself into some other cause or movement or subcult, cannot goon doing so forever. He becomes, to adapt Graham Greenes term, a "burnt out case." Helearns from past disappointment never to lay too much of his old self on the line. And so, even when he seemingly adopts a subcult or style, he withholds some part ofhimself. He conforms to the groups demands and revels in the belongingness that it giveshim. But this belongingness is never the same as it once was, and secretly he remains ready todefect at a moments notice. What this means is that even when he seems most firmly pluggedin to his group or tribe, he listens, in the dark of night, to the short-wave signals of competingtribes. In this sense, his membership in the group is shallow. He remains constantly in aposture of non-commitment, and without strong commitment to the values and styles of somegroup he lacks the explicit set of criteria that he needs to pick his way through the burgeoningjungle of overchoice. The super-industrial revolution, consequently, forces the whole problem of overchoiceto a qualitatively new level. It forces us now to make choices not merely among lamps andlampshades, but among lives, not among life style components, but among whole life styles. This intensification of the problem of overchoice presses us toward orgies of self-examination, soul-searching and introversion. It confronts us with that most popular ofcontemporary illnesses, the "identity crisis." Never before have masses of men faced a morecomplex set of choices. The hunt for identity arises not out of the supposed choicelessness of"mass society," but precisely from the plenitude and complexity of our choices. Each time we make a style choice, a super-decision, each time we link up with someparticular subcultural group or groups, we make some change in our self-image. We become,in some sense, a different person, and we perceive ourselves as different. Our old friends,those who knew us in some previous incarnation, raise their eyebrows. They have a harderand harder time recognizing us, and, in fact, we experience increasing difficulty in identifyingwith, or even sympathizing with, our own past selves. The hippie becomes the straight-arrow executive, the executive becomes the skydiverwithout noting the exact steps of transition. In the process, he discards not only the externalsof his style, but many of his underlying attitudes as well. And one day the question hits himlike a splash of cold water in a sleep-sodden face: "What remains?" What is there of "self" or"personality" in the sense of a continuous, durable internal structure? For some, the answer isvery little. For they are no longer dealing in "self" but in what might be called "serial selves."
The Super-industrial Revolution thus requires a basic change in mans conception ofhimself, a new theory of personality that takes into account the discontinuities in mens lives,as well as the continuities. The Super-industrial Revolution also demands a new conception of freedom—arecognition that freedom, pressed to its ultimate, negates itself. Societys leap to a new levelof differentiation necessarily brings with it new opportunities for individuation, and the newtechnology, the new temporary organizational forms, cry out for a new breed of man. This iswhy, despite "backlash" and temporary reversals, the line of social advance carries us towarda wider tolerance, a more easy acceptance of more and more diverse human types. The sudden popularity of the slogan "do your thing" is a reflection of this historicmovement. For the more fragmented or differentiated the society, the greater the number ofvaried life styles it promotes. And the more socially accepted life style models put forth bythe society, the closer that society approaches a condition in which, in fact, each man does hisown, unique thing. Thus, despite all the anti-technological rhetoric of the Elluls and Fromms, theMumfords and Marcuses, it is precisely the super-industrial society, the most advancedtechnological society ever, that extends the range of freedom. The people of the future enjoygreater opportunities for self-realization than any previous group in history. The new society offers few roots in the sense of truly enduring relationships. But itdoes offer more varied life niches, more freedom to move in and out of these niches, andmore opportunity to create ones own niche, than all earlier societies put together. It alsooffers the supreme exhilaration of riding change, cresting it, changing and growing with it—aprocess infinitely more exciting than riding the surf, wrestling steers, playing "knockhubcaps" on an eight-lane speedway, or the pursuit of pharmaceutical kicks. It presents theindividual with a contest that requires self-mastery and high intelligence. For the individualwho comes armed with these, and who makes the necessary effort to understand the fast-emerging super-industrial social structure, for the person who finds the "right" life pace, the"right" sequence of subcults to join and life style models to emulate, the triumph is exquisite. Undeniably, these grand words do not apply to the majority of men. Most people of thepast and present remain imprisoned in life niches they have neither made nor have muchhope, under present conditions, of ever escaping. For most human beings, the options remainexcruciatingly few. This imprisonment must—and will—be broken. Yet it will not be broken by tiradesagainst technology. It will not be broken by calls for a return to passivity, mysticism andirrationality. It will not be broken by "feeling" or "intuiting" our way into the future whilederogating empirical study, analysis, and rational effort. Rather than lashing out, Luddite-fashion, against the machine, those who genuinely wish to break the prison-hold of the pastand present would do well to hasten the controlled—selective—arrival of tomorrowstechnologies. To accomplish this, however, intuition and "mystical insights" are hardlyenough. It will take exact scientific knowledge, expertly applied to the crucial, most sensitivepoints of social control. Nor does it help to offer the principle of the maximization of choice as the key tofreedom. We must consider the possibility, suggested here, that choice may becomeoverchoice, and freedom unfreedom. THE FREE SOCIETYDespite romantic rhetoric, freedom cannot be absolute. To argue for total choice (ameaningless concept) or total individuality is to argue against any form of community or
society altogether. If each person, busily doing his thing, were to be wholly different fromevery other, no two humans would have any basis for communication. It is ironic that thepeople who complain most loudly that people cannot "relate" to one another, or cannot"communicate" with one another, are often the very same people who urge greaterindividuality. The sociologist Karl Mannheim recognized this contradiction when he wrote:"The more individualized people are, the more difficult it is to attain identification." Unless we are literally prepared to plunge backward into pre-technological primitivism,and accept all the consequences—a shorter, more brutal life, more disease, pain, starvation,fear, superstition, xenophobia, bigotry and so on—we shall move forward to more and moredifferentiated societies. This raises severe problems of social integration. What bonds ofeducation, politics, culture must we fashion to tie the super-industrial order together into afunctioning whole? Can this be accomplished? "This integration," writes Bertram M. Grossof Wayne State University, "must be based upon certain commonly accepted values or somedegree of perceived interdependence, if not mutually acceptable objectives." A society fast fragmenting at the level of values and life styles challenges all the oldintegrative mechanisms and cries out for a totally new basis for reconstitution. We have byno means yet found this basis. Yet if we shall face disturbing problems of social integration,we shall confront even more agonizing problems of individual integration. For themultiplication of life styles challenges our ability to hold the very self together. Which of many potential selves shall we choose to be? What sequence of serial selveswill describe us? How, in short, must we deal with overchoice at this, the most intenselypersonal and emotion-laden level of all? In our headlong rush for variety, choice andfreedom, we have not yet begun to examine the awesome implications of diversity. When diversity, however, converges with transience and novelty, we rocket the societytoward an historical crisis of adaptation. We create an environment so ephemeral, unfamiliarand complex as to threaten millions with adaptive breakdown. This breakdown is futureshock.
Chapter 15 FUTURE SHOCK: THE PHYSICAL DIMENSIONEons ago the shrinking seas cast millions of unwilling aquatic creatures onto the newlycreated beaches. Deprived of their familiar environment, they died, gasping and clawing foreach additional instant of eternity. Only a fortunate few, better suited to amphibian existence,survived the shock of change. Today, says sociologist Lawrence Suhm of the University ofWisconsin, "We are going through a period as traumatic as the evolution of manspredecessors from sea creatures to land creatures ... Those who can adapt will; those whocant will either go on surviving somehow at a lower level of development or will perish—washed up on the shores." To assert that man must adapt seems superfluous. He has already shown himself to beamong the most adaptable of life forms. He has survived Equatorial summers and Antarcticwinters. He has survived Dachau and Vorkuta. He has walked the lunar surface. Suchaccomplishments give rise to the glib notion that his adaptive capabilities are "infinite." Yetnothing could be further from the truth. For despite all his heroism and stamina, man remainsa biological organism, a "biosystem," and all such systems operate within inexorable limits. Temperature, pressure, caloric intake, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, all set absoluteboundaries beyond which man, as presently constituted, cannot venture. Thus when we hurl aman into outer space, we surround him with an exquisitely designed microenvironment thatmaintains all these factors within livable limits. How strange, therefore, that when we hurl aman into the future, we take few pains to protect him from the shock of change. It is asthough NASA had shot Armstrong and Aldrin naked into the cosmos. It is the thesis of this book that there are discoverable limits to the amount of changethat the human organism can absorb, and that by endlessly accelerating change without firstdetermining these limits, we may submit masses of men to demands they simply cannottolerate. We run the high risk of throwing them into that peculiar state that I have calledfuture shock. We may define future shock as the distress, both physical and psychological, that arisesfrom an overload of the human organisms physical adaptive systems and its decision-makingprocesses. Put more simply, future shock is the human response to overstimulation. Different people react to future shock in different ways. Its symptoms also varyaccording to the stage and intensity of the disease. These symptoms range all the way fromanxiety, hostility to helpful authority, and seemingly senseless violence, to physical illness,depression and apathy. Its victims often manifest erratic swings in interest and life style,followed by an effort to "crawl into their shells" through social, intellectual and emotionalwithdrawal. They feel continually "bugged" or harassed, and want desperately to reduce thenumber of decisions they must make. To understand this syndrome, we must pull together from such scattered fields aspsychology, neurology, communications theory and endocrinology, what science can tell usabout human adaptation. There is, as yet, no science of adaptation per se. Nor is there anysystematic listing of the diseases of adaptation. Yet evidence now sluicing in from a varietyof disciplines makes it possible to sketch the rough outlines of a theory of adaptation. Forwhile researchers in these disciplines often work in ignorance of each others efforts, theirwork is elegantly compatible. Forming a distinct and exciting pattern, it provides solidunderpinning for the concept of future shock.
LIFE-CHANGE AND ILLNESSWhat actually happens to people when they are asked to change again and again? Tounderstand the answer, we must begin with the body, the physical organism, itself.Fortunately, a series of startling, but as yet unpublicized, experiments have recently castrevealing light on the relationship of change to physical health. These experiments grow out of the work of the late Dr. Harold G. Wolff at the CornellMedical Center in New York. Wolff repeatedly emphasized that the health of the individualis intimately bound up with the adaptive demands placed on him by the environment. One ofWolffs followers, Dr. Lawrence E. Hinkle, Jr., has termed this the "human ecology"approach to medicine, and has argued passionately that disease need not be the result of anysingle, specific agent, such as a germ or virus, but a consequence of many factors, includingthe general nature of the environment surrounding the body. Hinkle has worked for years tosensitize the medical profession to the importance of environmental factors in medicine. Today, with spreading alarm over air pollution, water pollution, urban crowding andother such factors, more and more health authorities are coming around to the ecologicalnotion that the individual needs to be seen as part of a total system, and that his health isdependent upon many subtle external factors. It was another of Wolffs colleagues, however, Dr. Thomas H. Holmes, who came upwith the idea that change, itself—not this or that specific change but the general rate ofchange in a persons life—could be one of the most important environmental factors of all.Originally from Cornell, Holmes is now at the University of Washington School of Medicine,and it was there, with the help of a young psychiatrist named Richard Rahe, that he created aningenious research tool named the Life-Change Units Scale. This was a device for measuringhow much change an individual has experienced in a given span of time. Its development wasan important methodological breakthrough, making it possible, for the first time, to qualify, atleast crudely, the rate of change in individual life. Reasoning that different kinds of life-changes strike us with different force, Holmesand Rahe began by listing as many such changes as they could. A divorce, a marriage, amove to a new home—such events affect each of us differently. Moreover, some carrygreater impact than others. A vacation trip, for example, may represent a pleasant break in theroutine. Yet it can hardly compare in impact with, say, the death of a parent. Holmes and Rahe next took their list of life-changes to thousands of men and women inmany walks of life in the United States and Japan. Each person was asked to rank order thespecific items on the list according to how much impact each had. Which changes required agreat deal of coping or adjustment? Which ones were relatively minor? To Holmes and Rahes surprise, it turned out that there is widespread agreement amongpeople as to which changes in their lives require major adaptations and which ones arecomparatively unimportant. This agreement about the "impact-fullness" of various life eventsextends even across national and language barriers.* People tend to know and to agree onwhich changes hit the hardest. Given this information, Holmes and Rahe were able to assign a numerical weight toeach type of life change. Thus each item on their list was ranked by its magnitude and given ascore accordingly. For example, if the death of ones spouse is rated as one hundred points,then moving to a new home is rated by most people as worth only twenty points, a vacationthirteen. (The death of a spouse, incidentally, is almost universally regarded as the singlemost impactful change that can befall a person in the normal course of his life.) Now Holmes and Rahe were ready for the next step. Armed with their Life-ChangeUnits Scale, they began to question people about the actual pattern of change in their lives.
The scale made it possible to compare the "changefulness" of one persons life with that ofanother. By studying the amount of change in a persons life, could we learn anything aboutthe influence of change itself on health? To find out, Holmes, Rahe and other researchers compiled the "life change scores" ofliterally thousands of individuals and began the laborious task of comparing these with themedical histories of these same individuals. Never before had there been a way to correlatechange and health. Never before had there been such detailed data on patterns of change inindividual lives. And seldom were the results of an experiment less ambiguous. In the UnitedStates and Japan, among servicemen and civilians, among pregnant women and the familiesof leukemia victims, among college athletes and retirees, the same striking pattern waspresent: those with high life change scores were more likely than their fellows to be ill in thefollowing year. For the first time, it was possible to show in dramatic form that the rate ofchange in a persons life—his pace of life—is closely tied to the state of his health. "The results were so spectacular," says Dr. Holmes, "that at first we hesitated to publishthem. We didnt release our initial findings until 1967." Since then, the Life-Change Units Scale and the Life Changes Questionnaire have beenapplied to a wide variety of groups from unemployed blacks in Watts to naval officers at sea.In every case, the correlation between change and illness has held. It has been established that"alterations in life style" that require a great deal of adjustment and coping, correlate withillness—whether or not these changes are under the individuals own direct control, whetheror not he sees them as undesirable. Furthermore, the higher the degree of life change, thehigher the risk that subsequent illness will be severe. So strong is this evidence, that it isbecoming possible, by studying life change scores, actually to predict levels of illness invarious populations. Thus in August, 1967, Commander Ransom J. Arthur, head of the United States NavyMedical Neuropsychiatric Research Unit at San Diego, and Richard Rahe, now a Captain inCommander Arthurs group, set out to forecast sickness patterns in a group of 3000 Navymen. Drs. Arthur and Rahe began by distributing a Life Changes Questionnaire to the sailorson three cruisers in San Diego harbor. The ships were about to depart and would be at sea forapproximately six months each. During this time it would be possible to maintain exactmedical records on each crew member. Could information about a mans life change patterntell us in advance the likelihood of his falling ill during the voyage? Each crew member was asked to tell what changes had occurred in his life during theyear preceding the voyage. The questionnaire covered an extremely broad spectrum of topics.Thus it asked whether the man had experienced either more or less trouble with superiorsduring the twelve-month period. It asked about alterations in his eating and sleeping habits. Itinquired about change in his circle of friends, his dress, his forms of recreation. It askedwhether he had experienced any change in his social activities, in family get-togethers, in hisfinancial condition. Had he been having more or less trouble with his in-laws? More or fewerarguments with his wife? Had he gained a child through birth or adoption? Had he sufferedthe death of his wife, a friend or relative? The questionnaire went on to probe such issues as the number of times he had moved toa new home. Had he been in trouble with the law over traffic violations or other minorinfractions? Had he spent a lot of time away from his wife as a result of job-related travel ormarital difficulties? Had he changed jobs? Won awards or promotions? Had his livingconditions changed as a consequence of home remodeling or the deterioration of hisneighborhood? Had his wife started or stopped working? Had he taken out a loan ormortgage? How many times had he taken a vacation? Was there any major change in hisrelations with his parents as a result of death, divorce, remarriage, etc.?
In short, the questionnaire tried to get at the kind of life changes that are part of normalexistence. It did not ask whether a change was regarded as "good" or "bad," simply whetheror not it had occurred. For six months, the three cruisers remained at sea. Just before they were scheduled toreturn, Arthur and Rahe flew new research teams out to join the ships. These teamsproceeded to make a fine-tooth survey of the ships medical records. Which men had been ill?What diseases had they reported? How many days had they been confined to sick bay? When the last computer runs were completed, the linkage between changefulness andillness was nailed down more firmly than ever. Men in the upper ten percent of life changeunits—those who had had to adapt to the most change in the preceding year—turned out tosuffer from one-and-a-half to two times as much illness as those in the bottom ten percent.Moreover, once again, the higher the life change score, the more severe the illness was likelyto be. The study of life change patterns—of change as an environmental factor—contributedsignificantly to success in predicting the amount and severity of illness in widely variedpopulations. "For the first time," says Dr. Arthur, appraising life change research, "we have an indexof change. If youve had many changes in your life within a short time, this places a greatchallenge on your body ... An enormous number of changes within a short period mightoverwhelm its coping mechanisms. "It is clear," he continues, "that there is a connection between the bodys defenses andthe demands for change that society imposes. We are in a continuous dynamic equilibrium ...Various noxious elements, both internal and external, are always present, always seeking toexplode into disease. For example, certain viruses live in the body and cause disease onlywhen the defenses of the body wear down. There may well be generalized body defensesystems that prove inadequate to cope with the flood of demands for change that comepulsing through the nervous and endocrine systems." The stakes in life-change research are high, indeed, for not only illness, but death itself,may be linked to the severity of adaptational demands placed on the body. Thus a report byArthur, Rahe, and a colleague, Dr. Joseph D. McKean, Jr., begins with a quotation fromSomerset Maughams literary autobiography, The Summing Up: My father ... went to Paris and became solicitor to the British Embassy... . After my mothers death, her maid became my nurse.... I think my father had a romantic mind. He took it into his head to build a house to live in during the summer. He bought a piece of land on the top of a hill at Suresnes. ... It was to be like a villa on the Bosphorous and on the top floor it was surrounded by loggias. ... It was a white house and the shutters were painted red. The garden was laid out. The rooms were furnished and then my father died. "The death of Somerset Maughams father," they write, "seems at first glance to havebeen an abrupt unheralded event. However, a critical evaluation of the events of a year or twoprior to the fathers demise reveals changes in his occupation, residence, personal habits,finances and family constellation." These changes, they suggest, may have been precipitatingevents. This line of reasoning is consistent with reports that death rates among widows andwidowers, during the first year after loss of a spouse, are higher than normal. A series ofBritish studies have strongly suggested that the shock of widowhood weakens resistance toillness and tends to accelerate aging. The same is true for men. Scientists at the Institute ofCommunity Studies in London, after reviewing the evidence and studying 4,486 widowers,declare that "the excess mortality in the first six months is almost certainly real ...
[Widowerhood] appears to bring in its wake a sudden increment in mortality-rates ofsomething like 40 percent in the first six months." Why should this be true? It is speculated that grief, itself, leads to pathology. Yet theanswer may lie not in the state of grief at all, but in the very high impact that loss of a spousecarries, forcing the survivor to make a multitude of major life changes within a short periodafter the death takes place. The work of Hinkle, Holmes, Rahe, Arthur, McKean and others now probing therelationship of change to illness is still in its early stages. Yet one lesson already seemsvividly clear: change carries a physiological price tag with it. And the more radical thechange, the steeper the price. * The work in the United States and Japan is now being supplemented by studies in France, Belgium andthe Netherlands. RESPONSE TO NOVELTY"Life," says Dr. Hinkle, "... implies a constant interaction between organism andenvironment." When we speak of the change brought about by divorce or a death in thefamily or a job transfer or even a vacation, we are talking about a major life event. Yet, aseveryone knows, life consists of tiny events as well, a constant stream of them flowing intoand out of our experience. Any major life change is major only because it forces us to makemany little changes as well, and these, in turn, consist of still smaller and smaller changes. Tograpple with the meaning of life in the accelerative society, we need to see what happens atthe level of these minute, "micro-changes" as well. What happens when something in our environment is altered? All of us are constantlybathed in a shower of signals from our environment—visual, auditory, tactile, etc. Most ofthese come in routine, repetitive patterns. When something changes within the range of oursenses, the pattern of signals pouring through our sensory channels into our nervous system ismodified. The routine, repetitive patterns are interrupted—and to this interruption we respondin a particularly acute fashion. Significantly, when some new set of stimuli hits us, both body and brain know almostinstantly that they are new. The change may be no more than a flash of color seen out of thecorner of an eye. It may be that a loved one brushing us tenderly with the fingertipsmomentarily hesitates. Whatever the change, an enormous amount of physical machinerycomes into play. When a dog hears a strange noise, his ears prick, his head turns. And we do much thesame. The change in stimuli triggers what experimental psychologists call an "orientationresponse." The orientation response or OR is a complex, even massive bodily operation. Thepupils of the eyes dilate. Photochemical changes occur in the retina. Our hearing becomesmomentarily more acute. We involuntarily use our muscles to direct our sense organs towardthe incoming stimuli—we lean toward the sound, for example, or squint our eyes to seebetter. Our general muscle tone rises. There are changes in our pattern of brain waves. Ourfingers and toes grow cold as the veins and arteries in them constrict. Our palms sweat. Bloodrushes to the head. Our breathing and heart rate alter. Under certain circumstances, we may do all of this—and more—in a very obviousfashion, exhibiting what has been called the "startle reaction." But even when we are unawareof what is going on, these changes take place every time we perceive novelty in ourenvironment.
The reason for this is that we have, apparently built into our brains, a special novelty-detection apparatus that has only recently come to the attention of neurologists. The Sovietscientist E. N. Sokolov, who has put forward the most comprehensive explanation of how theorientation response works, suggests that neural cells in the brain store information about theintensity, duration, quality, and sequence of incoming stimuli. When new stimuli arrive, theseare matched against the "neural models" in the cortex. If the stimuli are novel, they do notmatch any existing neural model, and the OR takes place. If, however, the matching processreveals their similarity to previously stored models, the cortex shoots signals to the reticularactivating system, instructing it, in effect, to hold its fire. In this way, the level of novelty in our environment has direct physical consequences.Moreover, it is vital to recognize that the OR is not an unusual affair. It takes place in most ofus literally thousands of times in the course of a single day as various changes occur in theenvironment around us. Again and again the OR fires off, even during sleep. "The OR is big!" says research psychologist Ardie Lubin, an expert on sleepmechanisms. "The whole body is involved. And when you increase novelty in theenvironment—which is what a lot of change means—you get continual ORs with it. This isprobably very stressful for the body. Its a helluva load to put on the body. "If you overload an environment with novelty, you get the equivalent of anxietyneurotics—people who have their systems continually flooded with adrenalin, continual heartpumping, cold hands, increased muscle tone and tremors—all the usual OR characteristics." The orientation response is no accident. It is natures gift to man, one of his keyadaptive mechanisms. The OR has the effect of sensitizing him to take in more information—to see or hear better, for instance. It readies his muscles for sudden exertion, if necessary. Inshort, it prepares him for fight or flight. Yet each OR, as Lubin underscores, takes its toll inwear and tear on the body, for it requires energy to sustain it. Thus one result of the OR is to send a surge of anticipatory energy through the body.Stored energy exists in such sites as the muscles and the sweat glands. As the neural systempulses in response to novelty, its synaptic vesicles discharge small amounts of adrenalin andnor-adrenalin. These, in turn, trigger a partial release of the stored energy. In short, each ORdraws not only upon the bodys limited supply of quick energy, but on its even more limitedsupply of energy-releasers. It needs to be emphasized, moreover, that the OR occurs not merely in response tosimple sensory inputs. It happens when we come across novel ideas or information as well asnovel sights or sounds. A fresh bit of office gossip, a unifying concept, even a new joke or anoriginal turn of phrase can trigger it. The OR is particularly stressing when a novel event or fact challenges ones wholepreconceived world view. Given an elaborate ideology, Catholicism, Marxism or whatever,we quickly recognize (or think we recognize) familiar elements in otherwise novel stimuli,and this puts us at ease. Indeed, ideologies may be regarded as large mental filing cabinetswith vacant drawers or slots waiting to accept new data. For this reason, ideologies serve toreduce the intensity and frequency of the OR. It is only when a new fact fails to fit, when it resists filing, that the OR occurs. Aclassical example is that of the religious person who is brought up to believe in the goodnessof God and who is suddenly faced by what strikes him as a case of overwhelming, senselessevil. Until the new fact can be reconciled or his world view altered, he suffers acute agitationand anxiety. The OR is so inherently stressing that we enjoy a vast sense of relief when it is over. Atthe level of ideas or cognition, this is the "a-hah!" reaction we experience at a moment ofrevelation, when we finally understand something that has been puzzling us. We may be
aware of the "a-hah" reaction on rare occasions only, but ORs and "a-hahs" are continuallyoccurring just below the level of consciousness. Novelty, therefore—any perceptible novelty—touches off explosive activity within thebody, and especially the nervous system. ORs fire off like flashbulbs within us, at a ratedetermined by what is happening outside us. Man and environment are in constant, quiveringinterplay. THE ADAPTIVE REACTIONWhile novelty in the environment raises or lowers the rate at which ORs occur, some novelconditions call forth even more powerful responses. We are driving along a monotonousturnpike, listening to the radio and beginning to daydream. Suddenly, a car speeds by, forcingus to swerve out of our lane. We react automatically, almost instantaneously, and the OR isvery pronounced. We can feel our heart pumping and our hands shaking. It takes a whilebefore the tension subsides. But what if it does not subside? What happens when we are placed in a situation thatdemands a complex set of physical and psychological reactions and in which the pressure issustained? What happens if, for example, the boss breathes hotly down our collar day afterday? What happens when one of our children is seriously ill? Or when, on the other hand, welook forward eagerly to a "big date" or to closing an important business deal? Such situations cannot be handled by the quick spurt of energy provided by the OR, andfor these we have what might be termed the "adaptive reaction." This is closely related to theOR. Indeed, the two processes are so intertwined that the OR can be regarded as part of, orthe initial phase of, the larger, more encompassing adaptive reaction. But while the OR isprimarily based on the nervous system, the adaptive reaction is heavily dependent upon theendocrine glands and the hormones they shoot into the bloodstream. The first line of defenseis neural; the second is hormonal. When individuals are forced to make repeated adaptations to novelty, and especiallywhen they are compelled to adapt to certain situations involving conflict and uncertainty, apea-sized gland called the pituitary pumps out a number of substances. One of these, ACTH,goes to the adrenals. This causes them, in turn, to manufacture certain chemicals termedcorticosteroids. When these are released, they speed up body metabolism. They raise bloodpressure. They send anti-inflammatory substances through the blood to fight infection atwound sites, if any. And they begin turning fat and protein into dispersible energy, thustapping into the bodys reserve tank of energy. The adaptive reaction provides a much morepotent and sustained flush of energy than the OR. Like the orientation response, the adaptive reaction is no rarity. It takes longer to arouseand it lasts longer, but it happens countless times even within the course of a single day,responding to changes in our physical and social environment. The adaptive reaction,sometimes known by the more dramatic term "stress," can be touched off by shifts andchanges in the psychological climate around us. Worry, upset, conflict, uncertainty, evenhappy anticipation, hilarity and joy, all set the ACTH factory working. The very anticipationof change can trigger the adaptive reaction. The need to alter ones way of life, to trade an oldjob for a new one, social pressures, status shifts, life style modifications, in fact, anything thatforces us to confront the unknown, can switch on the adaptive reaction. Dr. Lennart Levi, director of the Clinical Stress Laboratory at the Karolinska Hospitalin Stockholm, has shown, for example, that even quite small changes in the emotional climateor in interpersonal relationships can produce marked changes in body chemistry. Stress isfrequently measured by the amount of corticosteroids and catecholamines (adrenalin and nor-
adrenalin, for example) found in the blood and urine. In one series of experiments Levi usedfilms to generate emotions and plotted the resultant chemical changes. A group of Swedish male medical students were shown film clips depicting murders,fights, torture, execution and cruelty to animals. The adrenalin component of their urine rosean average 70 percent as measured before and after. Nor-adrenalin rose an average 35percent. Next a group of young female office workers were shown four different films onsuccessive nights. The first was a bland travelog. They reported feelings of calmness andequanimity, and their output of catecholamines fell. The second night they watched StanleyKubricks Paths of Glory and reported feeling intense excitement and anger. Adrenalin outputshot upward. The third night they viewed Charleys Aunt, and roared with laughter at thecomedy. Despite the pleasant feelings and the absence of any scenes of aggression orviolence, their catecholamines rose significantly again. The fourth night they saw The DevilsMask, a thriller during which they actually screamed with fright. Not unexpectedly,catecholamine output soared. In short, emotional response, almost without regard for itscharacter, is accompanied by (or, indeed, reflects) adrenal activity. Similar findings have been demonstrated again and again in the case of men andwomen—not to speak of rats, dogs, deer and other experimental animals—involved in "real"as distinct from "vicarious" experiences. Sailors in underwater demolition training, menstationed in lonely outposts in Antarctica, astronauts, factory workers, executives have allshown similar chemical responsiveness to change in the external environment. The implications of this have hardly begun to register, yet there is increasing evidencethat repeated stimulation of the adaptive reaction can be seriously damaging, that excessiveactivation of the endocrine system leads to irreversible "wear and tear." Thus, we are warnedby Dr. René Dubos, author of Man Adapting, that such changeful circumstances as"competitive situations, operation within a crowded environment, change in a very profoundmanner the secretion of hormones. One can type-read that in the blood or the urine. Just amere contact with the complex human situation almost automatically brings this about, thisstimulation of the whole endocrine system." What of it? "There is," Dubos declares, "absolutely no question that one can overshoot thestimulation of the endocrine system and that this has physiological consequences that lastthroughout the whole lifetime of the organs." Years ago, Dr. Hans Selye, a pioneer investigator of the bodys adaptive responses,reported that "animals in which intense and prolonged stress is produced by any means sufferfrom sexual derangements ... Clinical studies have confirmed the fact that people exposed tostress react very much like experimental animals in all these respects. In women the monthlycycles become irregular or stop altogether, and during lactation milk secretion may becomeinsufficient for the baby. In men both the sexual urge and sperm-cell formation arediminished." Since then population experts and ecologists have compiled impressive evidence thatheavily stressed populations of rats, deer—and people—show lower fertility levels than lessstressed control groups. Crowding, for example, a condition that involves a constant highlevel of interpersonal interaction and compels the individual to make extremely frequentadaptive reactions has been shown, at least in animals, to enlarge the adrenals and cause anoticeable drop in fertility. The repeated firing of the OR and the adaptive reaction, by overloading the neural andendocrine systems, is linked to other diseases and physical problems as well. Rapid change inthe environment makes repeated calls on the energy supply of the body. This leads to aspeedup of fat metabolism. In turn, this creates grave difficulties for certain diabetics. Eventhe common cold has been shown to be affected by the rate of change in the environment. In
studies reported by Dr. Hinkle it was found that the frequency of colds in a sample of NewYork working women correlated with "changes in the mood and pattern of activity of thewoman, in response to changing relationships to the people around her and the events that sheencountered." In short, if we understand the chain of biological events touched off by our efforts toadapt to change and novelty, we can begin to understand why health and change seem to beinextricably linked to one another. The findings of Holmes, Rahe, Arthur and others nowengaged in life change research are entirely compatible with on-going research inendocrinology and experimental psychology. It is quite clearly impossible to accelerate therate of change in society, or to raise the novelty ratio in society, without triggering significantchanges in the body chemistry of the population. By stepping up the pace of scientific,technological and social change, we are tampering with the chemistry and biological stabilityof the human race. This, one must immediately add, is not necessarily bad. "There are worse things thanillness," Dr. Holmes wryly reminds us. "No one can live without experiencing some degreeof stress all the time," Dr. Selye has written. To eliminate ORs and adaptive reactions wouldbe to eliminate all change, including growth, self-development, maturation. It presupposescomplete stasis. Change is not merely necessary to life; it is life. By the same token, life isadaptation. There are, however, limits on adaptability. When we alter our life style, when we makeand break relationships with things, places or people, when we move restlessly through theorganizational geography of society, when we learn new information and ideas, we adapt; welive. Yet there are finite boundaries; we are not infinitely resilient. Each orientation response,each adaptive reaction exacts a price, wearing down the bodys machinery bit by minute bit,until perceptible tissue damage results. Thus man remains in the end what he started as in the beginning: a biosystem with alimited capacity for change. When this capacity is overwhelmed, the consequence is futureshock.
Chapter 16 FUTURE SHOCK: THE PSYCHOLOGICAL DIMENSIONIf future shock were a matter of physical illness alone, it might be easier to prevent and totreat. But future shock attacks the psyche as well. Just as the body cracks under the strain ofenvironmental overstimulation, the "mind" and its decision processes behave erratically whenoverloaded. By indiscriminately racing the engines of change, we may be undermining notmerely the health of those least able to adapt, but their very ability to act rationally on theirown behalf. The striking signs of confusional breakdown we see around us—the spreading use ofdrugs, the rise of mysticism, the recurrent outbreaks of vandalism and undirected violence,the politics of nihilism and nostalgia, the sick apathy of millions—can all be understoodbetter by recognizing their relationship to future shock. These forms of social irrationalitymay well reflect the deterioration of individual decision-making under conditions ofenvironmental overstimulation. Psychophysiologists studying the impact of change on various organisms have shownthat successful adaptation can occur only when the level of stimulation—the amount ofchange and novelty in the environment—is neither too low nor too high. "The central nervoussystem of a higher animal," says Professor D. E. Berlyne of the University of Toronto, "isdesigned to cope with environments that produce a certain rate of ... stimulation ... It willnaturally not perform at its best in an environment that overstresses or overloads it." Hemakes the same point about environments that understimulate it. Indeed, experiments withdeer, dogs, mice and men all point unequivocally to the existence of what might be called an"adaptive range" below which and above which the individuals ability to cope simply fallsapart. Future shock is the response to overstimulation. It occurs when the individual is forcedto operate above his adaptive range. Considerable research has been devoted to studying theimpact of inadequate change and novelty on human performance. Studies of men in isolatedAntarctic outposts, experiments in sensory deprivation, investigations into on-the-jobperformance in factories, all show a falling off of mental and physical abilities in response tounderstimulation. We have less direct data on the impact of overstimulation, but suchevidence as does exist is dramatic and unsettling. THE OVERSTIMULATED INDIVIDUALSoldiers in battle often find themselves trapped in environments that are rapidly changing,unfamiliar, and unpredictable. The soldier is torn this way and that. Shells burst on everyside. Bullets whiz past erratically. Flares light the sky. Shouts, groans and explosions fill hisears. Circumstances change from instant to instant. To survive in such overstimulatiogenvironments, the soldier is driven to operate in the upper reaches of his adaptive range.Sometimes, he is pushed beyond his limits. During World War II a bearded Chindit soldier, fighting with General Wingates forcesbehind the Japanese lines in Burma, actually fell asleep while a storm of machine gun bulletssplattered around him. Subsequent investigation revealed that this soldier was not merelyreacting to physical fatigue or lack of sleep, but surrendering to a sense of overpoweringapathy.
Death-inviting lassitude was so common, in fact, among guerrilla troops who hadpenetrated behind enemy lines that British military physicians gave it a name. They termed itLong Range Penetration Strain. A soldier who suffered from it became, in their words,"incapable of doing the simplest thing for himself and seemed to have the mind of a child."This deadly lethargy, moreover, was not confined to guerrilla troops. One year after theChindit incident, similar symptoms cropped up en masse among the allied troops whoinvaded Normandy, and British researchers, after studying 5000 American and Englishcombat casualties, concluded that this strange apathy was merely the final stage in a complexprocess of psychological collapse. Mental deterioration often began with fatigue. This was followed by confusion andnervous irritability. The man became hypersensitive to the slightest stimuli around him. Hewould "hit the dirt" at the least provocation. He showed signs of bewilderment. He seemedunable to distinguish the sound of enemy fire from other, less threatening sounds. He becametense, anxious, and heatedly irascible. His comrades never knew when he would flail out inanger, even violence, in response to minor inconvenience. Then the final stage of emotional exhaustion set in. The soldier seemed to lose the verywill to live. He gave up the struggle to save himself, to guide himself rationally through thebattle. He became, in the words of R. L. Swank, who headed the British investigation, "dulland listless ... mentally and physically retarded, preoccupied." Even his face became dull andapathetic. The fight to adapt had ended in defeat. The stage of total withdrawal was reached. That men behave irrationally, acting against their own clear interest, when thrown intoconditions of high change and novelty is also borne out by studies of human behavior intimes of fire, flood, earthquake and other crises. Even the most stable and "normal" people,unhurt physically, can be hurled into anti-adaptive states. Often reduced to total confusionand mindlessness, they seem incapable of the most elementary rational decision-making. Thus in a study of the responses to tornadoes in Texas, H. E. Moore writes that "thefirst reaction ... may be one of dazed bewilderment, sometimes one of disbelief, or at least ofrefusal to accept the fact. This, it seems to us, is the essential explanation of the behavior ofpersons and groups in Waco when it was devastated in 1953 ... On the personal level, itexplains why a girl climbed into a music store through a broken display window, calmlypurchased a record, and walked out again, even though the plate glass front of the buildinghad blown out and articles were flying through the air inside the building." A study of a tornado in Udall, Kansas, quotes a housewife as saying: "After it was over,my husband and I just got up and jumped out the window and ran. I dont know where wewere running to but ... I didnt care. I just wanted to run." The classic disaster photographshows a mother holding a dead or wounded baby in her arms, her face blank and numb asthough she could no longer comprehend the reality around her. Sometimes she sits rockinggently on her porch with a doll, instead of a baby, in her arms. In disaster, therefore, exactly as in certain combat situations, individuals can bepsychologically overwhelmed. Once again the source may be traced to a high level ofenvironmental stimulation. The disaster victim finds himself suddenly caught in a situation inwhich familiar objects and relationships are transformed. Where once his house stood, theremay be nothing more than smoking rubble. He may encounter a cabin floating on the floodtide or a rowboat sailing through the air. The environment is filled with change and novelty.And once again the response is marked by confusion, anxiety, irritability and withdrawal intoapathy. Culture shock, the profound disorientation suffered by the traveler who has plungedwithout adequate preparation into an alien culture, provides a third example of adaptivebreakdown. Here we find none of the obvious elements of war or disaster. The scene may betotally peaceful and riskless. Yet the situation demands repeated adaptation to novel
conditions. Culture shock, according to psychologist Sven Lundstedt, is a "form ofpersonality maladjustment which is a reaction to a temporarily unsuccessful attempt to adjustto new surroundings and people." The culture shocked person, like the soldier and disaster victim, is forced to grapplewith unfamiliar and unpredictable events, relationships and objects. His habitual ways ofaccomplishing things—even simple tasks like placing a telephone call—are no longerappropriate. The strange society may itself be changing only very slowly, yet for him it is allnew. Signs, sounds and other psychological cues rush past him before he can grasp theirmeaning. The entire experience takes on a surrealistic air. Every word, every action is shotthrough with uncertainty. In this setting, fatigue arrives more quickly than usual. Along with it, the cross-culturaltraveler often experiences what Lundstedt describes as "a subjective feeling of loss, and asense of isolation and loneliness." The unpredictability arising from novelty undermines his sense of reality. Thus helongs, as Professor Lundstedt puts it, "for an environment in which the gratification ofimportant psychological and physical needs is predictable and less uncertain." He becomes"anxious, confused and often appears apathetic." In fact, Lundstedt concludes, "culture shockcan be viewed as a response to stress by emotional and intellectual withdrawal." It is hard to read these (and many other) accounts of behavior breakdown under avariety of stresses without becoming acutely aware of their similarities. While there aredifferences, to be sure, between a soldier in combat, a disaster victim, and a culturallydislocated traveler, all three face rapid change, high novelty, or both. All three are required toadapt rapidly and repeatedly to unpredictable stimuli. And there are striking parallels in theway all three respond to this overstimulation. First, we find the same evidences of confusion, disorientation, or distortion of reality.Second, there are the same signs of fatigue, anxiety, tenseness, or extreme irritability. Third,in all cases there appears to be a point of no return—a point at which apathy and emotionalwithdrawal set in. In short, the available evidence strongly suggests that overstimulation may lead tobizarre and anti-adaptive behavior. BOMBARDMENT OF THE SENSESWe still know too little about this phenomenon to explain authoritatively whyoverstimulation seems to produce maladaptive behavior. Yet we pick up important clues ifwe recognize that overstimulation can occur on at least three different levels: the sensory, thecognitive and the decisional.* The easiest to understand is the sensory level. Experiments in sensory deprivation,during which volunteers are cut off from normal stimulation of their senses, have shown thatthe absence of novel sensory stimuli can lead to bewilderment and impaired mentalfunctioning. By the same token, the input of too much disorganized, patternless or chaoticsensory stimuli can have similar effects. It is for this reason that practitioners of political orreligious brainwashing make use not only of sensory deprivation (solitary confinement, forexample) but of sensory bombardment involving flashing lights, rapidly shifting patterns ofcolor, chaotic sound effects—the whole arsenal of psychedelic kaleidoscopy. The religious fervor and bizarre behavior of certain hippie cultists may arise not merelyfrom drug abuse, but from group experimentation with both sensory deprivation andbombardment. The chanting of monotonous mantras, the attempt to focus the individualsattention on interior, bodily sensation to the exclusion of outside stimuli, are efforts to induce
the weird and sometimes hallucinatory effects of understimulation. At the other end of thescale, we note the glazed stares and numb, expressionless faces of youthful dancers at thegreat rock music auditoriums where light shows, split-screen movies, high decibel screams,shouts and moans, grotesque costumes and writhing, painted bodies create a sensoryenvironment characterized by high input and extreme unpredictability and novelty. An organisms ability to cope with sensory input is dependent upon its physiologicalstructure. The nature of its sense organs and the speed with which impulses flow through itsneural system set biological bounds on the quantity of sensory data it can accept. If weexamine the speed of signal transmission within various organisms, we find that the lower theevolutionary level, the slower the movement. Thus, for example, in a sea urchin egg, lackinga nervous system as such, a signal moves along a membrane at a rate of about a centimeter anhour. Clearly, at such a rate, the organism can respond to only a very limited part of itsenvironment. By the time we move up the ladder to a jellyfish, which already has a primitivenervous system, the signal travels 36,000 times faster: ten centimeters per second. In a worm,the rate leaps to 100 cps. Among insects and crustaceans, neural pulses race along at 1000cps. Among anthropoids the rate reaches 10,000 cps. Crude as these figures no doubt are,they help explain why man is unquestionably among the most adaptable of creatures. Yet even in man, with a neural transmission rate of about 30,000 cps, the boundaries ofthe system are imposing. (Electrical signals in a computer, by contrast, travel billions of timesfaster.) The limitations of the sense organs and nervous system mean that manyenvironmental events occur at rates too fast for us to follow, and we are reduced to samplingexperience at best. When the signals reaching us are regular and repetitive, this samplingprocess can yield a fairly good mental representation of reality. But when it is highlydisorganized, when it is novel and unpredictable, the accuracy of our imagery is necessarilyreduced. Our image of reality is distorted. This may explain why, when we experiencesensory overstimulation, we suffer confusion, a blurring of the line between illusion andreality. * The line between each of these is not completely clear, even to psychologists, but if we simply, incommonsense fashion, equate the sensory level with perceiving, the cognitive with thinking, and the decisionalwith deciding, we will not go too far astray. INFORMATION OVERLOADIf overstimulation at the sensory level increases the distortion with which we perceive reality,cognitive overstimulation interferes with our ability to "think." While some human responsesto novelty are involuntary, others are preceded by conscious thought, and this depends uponour ability to absorb, manipulate, evaluate and retain information. Rational behavior, in particular, depends upon a ceaseless flow of data from theenvironment. It depends upon the power of the individual to predict, with at least fair success,the outcome of his own actions. To do this, he must be able to predict how the environmentwill respond to his acts. Sanity, itself, thus hinges on mans ability to predict his immediate,personal future on the basis of information fed him by the environment. When the individual is plunged into a fast and irregularly changing situation, or anovelty-loaded context, however, his predictive accuracy plummets. He can no longer makethe reasonably correct assessments on which rational behavior is dependent. To compensate for this, to bring his accuracy up to the normal level again, he mustscoop up and process far more information than before. And he must do this at extremelyhigh rates of speed. In short, the more rapidly changing and novel the environment, the moreinformation the individual needs to process in order to make effective, rational decisions.
Yet just as there are limits on how much sensory input we can accept, there are in-builtconstraints on our ability to process information. In the words of psychologist George A.Miller of Rockefeller University, there are "severe limitations on the amount of informationthat we are able to receive, process, and remember." By classifying information, byabstracting and "coding" it in various ways, we manage to stretch these limits, yet ampleevidence demonstrates that our capabilities are finite. To discover these outer limits, psychologists and communications theorists have setabout testing what they call the "channel capacity" of the human organism. For the purpose ofthese experiments, they regard man as a "channel." Information enters from the outside. It isprocessed. It exits in the form of actions based on decisions. The speed and accuracy ofhuman information processing can be measured by comparing the speed of information inputwith the speed and accuracy of output. Information has been defined technically and measured in terms of units called "bits."*By now, experiments have established rates for the processing involved in a wide variety oftasks from reading, typing, and playing the piano to manipulating dials or doing mentalarithmetic. And while researchers differ as to the exact figures, they strongly agree on twobasic principles: first, that man has limited capacity; and second, that overloading the systemleads to serious breakdown of performance. Imagine, for example, an assembly line worker in a factory making childrens blocks.His job is to press a button each time a red block passes in front of him on the conveyor belt.So long as the belt moves at a reasonable speed, he will have little difficulty. His performancewill approach 100 percent accuracy. We know that if the pace is too slow, his mind willwander, and his performance will deteriorate. We also know that if the belt moves too fast, hewill falter, miss, grow confused and uncoordinated. He is likely to become tense and irritable.He may even take a swat at the machine out of pure frustration. Ultimately, he will give uptrying to keep pace. Here the information demands are simple, but picture a more complex task. Now theblocks streaming down the line are of many different colors. His instructions are to press thebutton only when a certain color pattern appears—a yellow block, say, followed by two redsand a green. In this task, he must take in and process far more information before he candecide whether or not to hit the button. All other things being equal, he will have even greaterdifficulty keeping up as the pace of the line accelerates. In a still more demanding task, we not only force the worker to process a lot of databefore deciding whether to hit the button, but we then force him to decide which of severalbuttons to press. We can also vary the number of times each button must be pressed. Now hisinstructions might read: For color pattern yellow-red-red-green, hit button number two once;for pattern green-blue-yellow-green, hit button number six three times; and so forth. Suchtasks require the worker to process a large amount of data in order to carry out his task.Speeding up the conveyor now will destroy his accuracy even more rapidly. Experiments like these have been built up to dismaying degrees of complexity. Testshave involved flashing lights, musical tones, letters, symbols, spoken words, and a wide arrayof other stimuli. And subjects, asked to drum fingertips, speak phrases, solve puzzles, andperform an assortment of other tasks, have been reduced to blithering ineptitude. The results unequivocally show that no matter what the task, there is a speed abovewhich it cannot be performed—and not simply because of inadequate muscular dexterity. Thetop speed is often imposed by mental rather than muscular limitations. These experimentsalso reveal that the greater the number of alternative courses of action open to the subject, thelonger it takes him to reach a decision and carry it out. Clearly, these findings can help us understand certain forms of psychological upset.Managers plagued by demands for rapid, incessant and complex decisions; pupils deluged
with facts and hit with repeated tests; housewives confronted with squalling children,jangling telephones, broken washing machines, the wail of rock and roll from the teenagersliving room and the whine of the television set in the parlor—may well find their ability tothink and act clearly impaired by the waves of information crashing into their senses. It ismore than possible that some of the symptoms noted among battle-stressed soldiers, disastervictims, and culture shocked travelers are related to this kind of information overload. One of the men who has pioneered in information studies, Dr. James G. Miller, directorof the Mental Health Research Institute at the University of Michigan, states flatly that"Glutting a person with more information than he can process may ... lead to disturbance." Hesuggests, in fact, that information overload may be related to various forms of mental illness. One of the striking features of schizophrenia, for example, is "incorrect associativeresponse." Ideas and words that ought to be linked in the subjects mind are not, and viceversa. The schizophrenic tends to think in arbitrary or highly personalized categories.Confronted with a set of blocks of various kinds—triangles, cubes, cones, etc.—the normalperson is likely to categorize them in terms of geometric shape. The schizophrenic asked toclassify them is just as likely to say "They are all soldiers" or "They all make me feel sad." In the volume Disorders of Communication, Miller describes experiments using wordassociation tests to compare normals and schizophrenics. Normal subjects were divided intotwo groups, and asked to associate various words with other words or concepts. One groupworked at its own pace. The other worked under time pressure—i.e., under conditions ofrapid information input. The time-pressed subjects came up with responses more like those ofschizophrenics than of self-paced normals. Similar experiments conducted by psychologists G. Usdansky and L. J. Chapman madepossible a more refined analysis of the types of errors made by subjects working underforced-pace, high information-input rates. They, too, concluded that increasing the speed ofresponse brought out a pattern of errors among normals that is peculiarly characteristic ofschizophrenics. "One might speculate," Miller suggests, "... that schizophrenia (by some as-yet-unknown process, perhaps a metabolic fault which increases neural noise) lowers thecapacities of channels involved in cognitive information processing. Schizophrenicsconsequently ... have difficulties in coping with information inputs at standard rates like thedifficulties experienced by normals at rapid rates. As a result, schizophrenics make errors atstandard rates like those made by normals under fast, forced-input rates." In short, Miller argues, the breakdown of human performance under heavy informationloads may be related to psychopathology in ways we have not yet begun to explore. Yet, evenwithout understanding its potential impact, we are accelerating the generalized rate of changein society. We are forcing people to adapt to a new life pace, to confront novel situations andmaster them in ever shorter intervals. We are forcing them to choose among fast-multiplyingoptions. We are, in other words, forcing them to process information at a far more rapid pacethan was necessary in slowly-evolving societies. There can be little doubt that we aresubjecting at least some of them to cognitive overstimulation. What consequences this mayhave for mental health in the techno-societies has yet to be determined. * A bit is the amount of information needed to make a decision between two equally likely alternatives.The number of bits needed increases by one as the number of such alternatives doubles. DECISION STRESS
Whether we are submitting masses of men to information overload or not, we are affectingtheir behavior negatively by imposing on them still a third form of overstimulation—decisionstress. Many individuals tapped in dull or slowly changing environments yearn to break outinto new jobs or roles that require them to make faster and more complex decisions. Butamong the people of the future, the problem is reversed. "Decisions, decisions ..." they mutteras they race anxiously from task to task. The reason they feel harried and upset is thattransience, novelty and diversity pose contradictory demands and thus place them in anexcruciating double bind. The accelerative thrust and its psychological counterpart, transience, force us toquicken the tempo of private and public decision-making. New needs, novel emergencies andcrises demand rapid response. Yet the very newness of the circumstances brings about a revolutionary change in thenature of the decisions they are called upon to make. The rapid injection of novelty into theenvironment upsets the delicate balance of "programmed" and "non-programmed" decisionsin our organizations and our private lives. A programmed decision is one that is routine, repetitive and easy to make. Thecommuter stands at the edge of the platform as the 8:05 rattles to a stop. He climbs aboard, ashe has done every day for months or years. Having long ago decided that the 8:05 is the mostconvenient run on the schedule, the actual decision to board the train is programmed. It seemsmore like a reflex than a decision at all. The immediate criteria on which the decision is basedare relatively simple and clear-cut, and because all the circumstances are familiar, he scarcelyhas to think about it. He is not required to process very much information. In this sense,programmed decisions are low in psychic cost. Contrast this with the kind of decisions that same commuter thinks about on his way tothe city. Should he take the new job Corporation X has just offered him? Should he buy anew house? Should he have an affair with his secretary? How can he get the ManagementCommittee to accept his proposals about the new ad campaign? Such questions demand non-routine answers. They force him to make one-time or first-time decisions that will establishnew habits and behavioral procedures. Many factors must be studied and weighed. A vastamount of information must be processed. These decisions are non-programmed. They arehigh in psychic cost. For each of us, life is a blend of the two. If this blend is too high in programmeddecisions, we are not challenged; we find life boring and stultifying. We search for ways,even unconsciously, to introduce novelty into our lives, thereby altering the decision "mix."But if this mix is too high in non-programmed decisions, if we are hit by so many novelsituations that programming becomes impossible, life becomes painfully disorganized,exhausting and anxiety-filled. Pus